Final exhibition a full dress rehearsal for limping Sonics

  • RICH MYHRE / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, October 26, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By RICH MYHRE

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – The Seattle SuperSonics will approach tonight’s final exhibition game as a full dress rehearsal for their upcoming regular-season opener, coach Paul Westphal said Thursday.

And that could include having all of Seattle’s expected starters on the court against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Forward Rashard Lewis and guard Desmond Mason both sat out Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Sacramento Kings. Lewis, Seattle’s starting small forward, is recovering from a sprained knee and Mason, the No. 1 draft pick who will start at shooting guard, missed because of a sprained ankle.

Initially, neither was likely to play against the Clippers, but both players practiced on Thursday afternoon and could be in the lineup tonight.

What must be seen, Westphal said, is whether the injured joints experience overnight swelling.

“That’s the main thing, when you’re coming off an injury, is how do you respond the day after you first work out,” he said. “If there’s swelling when they wake up in the morning, then they won’t play. But if they come back as good or better than they were, then they’ll play.

“We would limit each of their minutes some, but hopefully they’ll both be able to play. They were both moving real well (at Thursday’s practice). … We’ll keep a close eye them because of their injuries. We might rest them (more than usual) to be cautious, but for the most part I think we’ll go out there and approach this as we would a regular-season game.”

After tonight’s game in Los Angeles, the Sonics return home to prepare for Tuesday’s regular-season opener in Vancouver against the Grizzlies. Seattle opens its home schedule on Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets.

  • Never pleasant: Westphal had the unpleasant assignment of cutting three players on Thursday morning – Tyson Wheeler, Dickey Simpkins and Eddie Elisma. Though it is a necessary part of his job, “it’s really tough,” Westphal said. “You have to tell somebody, ‘I appreciate what you did. You did fine, but we’ve got to go a different direction.’ You can see their eyes just kind of glaze over. It’s like somebody hit them upside of the head with a brick, and it’s not fun to do that.”

    The three players who were cut “played as hard or harder than anybody we have (in training camp),” he added. “If circumstances were different, you could make a good argument for having them on the team.”

  • More T-wolves: On Thursday, people were still talking about the penalties given to the Minnesota Timberwolves for negotiating a secret deal with free-agent forward Joe Smith. The T-Wolves were fined $3.5 million and docked five future first-round draft picks by NBA commissioner David Stern.

    “You shouldn’t have secret deals,” Westphal said. “I think that’s the message (from the league) very clearly.”

    Westphal would not assess the justness of the punishment. “I’m not here to tell the commissioner how to do his job. I had my say with the miking the coaches (which was a heated controversy last season). After that, he’s on his own,” Westphal cracked. However, Westphal did say the Sonics have had similar opportunities to negotiate secret contracts.

    “We’ve lost players because we wouldn’t do it,” Westphal said. “The agents don’t mind asking.”

  • Once a fan, always a fan: As a boy growing up in Waxahachie, Texas, Mason enjoyed following the Sonics. He owned a Shawn Kemp jersey, and had trading cards of Kemp, Gary Payton, Nate McMillan and David Wingate. “Seattle was one of my favorite teams growing up,” he said, “and now I’m playing for them.”

    Also, Mason says he hasn’t had difficulty adjusting to Seattle’s offensive schemes. “Other teams are doubling Vin and Gary and Patrick,” he said with a smile, “so I just sit out there and shoot the ball.”

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