Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wilcox, Ridnour Set to Return

Chris WilcoxAfter missing the last four games with a dislocated right pinky finger, Chris Wilcox is expected to return to the lineup Monday when the Sonics host the Los Angeles Lakers. Wilcox, who has played just six minutes in the last six games (a sprained left knee preceded his dislocated finger), went through a full practice with the team on Sunday. So too did Luke Ridnour, who has played just once in the last eight games due to an ongoing quad injury. Barring a setback tomorrow morning, both should be available against the Lakers.

"I really didn't feel too much - just getting hit on it and that," said Wilcox. "The day went good. I got my wind up a little bit, so I should be straight for tomorrow."

Going through a full practice was valuable for conditioning for both Wilcox and Ridnour, and Sonics Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo was pleasantly surprised at the shape they were in. As far as how they played, Carlesimo's observation was that Wilcox was more affected than Ridnour. Wilcox will play with his right pinky and ring fingers "buddy taped" together to protect the pinky from dislocating again.

"There were a couple of plays where he didn't catch it or didn't rebound it where he normally would," Carlesimo said. "You're also watching a little more carefully because of that, but you can see that the thing will bother him in some things."

While he's confident he'll be alright, Wilcox sees how the tape could be a problem.

"Just think about it - now you're shooting with two of your fingers together," he said. "Especially your last two fingers, because that's basically where you get the grip on the ball, coming down with rebounds and things like that."

He joked that the main adjustment would be throwing the ball in on dunks without grabbing the rim, which could be a problem for his finger.

Wilcox's return may be particularly well-timed because Sonics big man Nick Collison missed Sunday's practice with a right quad contusion.

"He did something late in the game the other night and then, when we put him back in, it kinda bothered him," said Carlesimo.

"He couldn't really go up and down. He said it feels good laterally but couldn't run, so obviously he couldn't go."

Collison hasn't been ruled out for Monday's game, leaving his status day-to-day. Which player starts at power forward will be determined by their respective health, though Carlesimo indicated he'd lean toward Collison because he has been starting up front alongside Kurt Thomas.

Thomas' practice time was limited, as it has been much of the season, but with Ridnour and Wilcox back on the court the Sonics still had enough players (10) for a full practice. Thomas was also on the court as the Sonics went through the Lakers offense. It was important to be able to go 5-on-5 because it allowed the Sonics to work on their offense, which has slumped over the last few games.

Since the calendar turned to 2008, the Sonics have shot 38.7% from the field and averaged 88.9 points per 100 possessions. For the season, their Offensive Rating is 100.2 points per 100 possessions. In Carlesimo's opinion, the drop-off starts with the team getting less from its transition offense and continues from there.

"We haven't run hard or consistently," he said, "so not only are we not getting shots from the first six, eight, 10 seconds from transition, which is really important to us, but we're basically wasting six, eight, 10 seconds and now we're trying to get into a halfcourt set, so instead of at 10, we're trying to get into it at 14 or 16. Even then, we've been slow getting into it. When we make a call, we're either not communicating it well or we're not getting into it well.

"So we worked on one, running and attacking and doing more in transition; two, when (the point guards) call a play, that we get into it a lot more quickly than we have been getting into it and that we run it more crisply."

The numbers support Carlesimo's contention that his team has not pushed the ball consistently. Of the eight slowest-paced Sonics games this season, six have come in the last nine games, including each of the last two.

"We ran better by a hundred-fold today during practice than we have during any of our games," Carlesimo said. "We've had games where we've run consistently; we've just stopped doing it."

Carlesimo doesn't fault point guards Earl Watson and Delonte West for the lack of fast-break production, but getting Ridnour in the lineup may help the team get running. Pushing the ball is more of a strength of his game.

Overall, Carlesimo was pleased with his team's effort today.

"We had a very good practice considering what it was like (with injuries), he said. "They went hard. They did a good job. We got stuff accomplished."