McMillan goes back to basics

  • Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, November 22, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Rich Myhre

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Losses in three consecutive home games was not enough to make Nate McMillan loosen his vocal cords at Saturday’s team practice.

Instead, the Seattle SuperSonics coach opted for a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor during the team’s midday session. Having failed to execute properly in the fourth quarter of two home games this week – Tuesday against Miami and Friday vs. Memphis – the Sonics spent much of Saturday’s workout going over specific plays to use late in close games.

Then it was off to the film room to evaluate the decisive second half of the loss to Memphis.

Emerging later to chat with sports writers, McMillan said, “The onus is on me to teach these guys to play better. … I want to walk through what we’re looking for. Walk it through, slow it down, talk it through and really drill it into them.”

It is, he added, a case of “going back to the drawing board.”

An example of a costly breakdown came in the late moments of Friday’s game, McMillan explained. With the score tied, the Sonics called a timeout to diagram a play, which was a pick-and-roll involving guard Flip Murray and forward Vlade Radmanovic. Instead, Murray broke off the play and put up a shot that was blocked.

The Grizzlies got possession and guard Jason Williams dropped in a 3-pointer for the eventual game-winning basket.

Murray, McMillan said, “is a young guy who has only been in that position a couple of times. So that’s on me, getting these guys to execute in the clutch. And that’s something we talked about today, all practice, and it’s something from here on out I have to talk about with these guys.”

Having not won a home game since a Nov. 7 meeting with Portland, “the guys are upset,” McMillan said. “They have to be, losing three games in the fashion that we lost them. Confidence could be a little shaky, and that’s on me to keep their spirits high and keep them ready. I have to get them ready for the game, as well as myself and my staff.”

Rotation shuffle: McMillan has devised something of a rotation for guards Luke Ridnour and Antonio Daniels. The idea is to play Ridnour for a few games while Daniels watches, then switch and give Daniels those same minutes.

Essentially, McMillan is using a three-guard rotation with Brent Barry, Murray and either Ridnour and Daniels. The idea is to give extended minutes to the third guard, including some time with the first team.

Ridnour and Daniels “are guys who play with the ball and make decisions off the ball,” McMillan said. “They’re both average shooters and I think they need shooters around them.”

Against Memphis on Friday, Ridnour broke a string of lackluster games with 10 points, five assists and a steal in 18 minutes.

“He was effective and he looked like he was confident out there,” McMillan said, “and I think that’s due to playing with the group of guys he had a chance to play with.”

James decision pending: After a second straight ineffective game by backup center Jerome James on Friday – eight minutes, one point, no rebounds – McMillan is pondering a rotation change that would substitute Vitaly Potapenko for James. Potapenko has played in only three of Seattle’s game this season and just two of the last six.

McMillan said he is still thinking about the matter, but since he did not deny it there is a good chance Potapenko will get minutes tonight.

Allen update: Though injured guard Ray Allen did not make himself available to the media on Saturday, all signs are encouraging as he continues to recover from Nov. 1 arthroscopic ankle surgery.

“He looks good,” McMillan said of Allen, who attended Saturday’s practice and later received therapy on his ankle. “He’s really happy with the way it’s going.”

How much does McMillan miss the two-time All-Star? “I thought about him (Friday) night,” the coach said with a smile, referring to Seattle’s one-point loss to Memphis.

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