Sonics Update

  • Monday, October 29, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

Opponent: Sacramento Kings

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Arco Arena, Sacramento, Calif.

TV: KONG (ch. 6/16)

Radio: KJR (950 AM)

Probable starters: For Seattle – forwards Vin Baker (6 feet, 11 inches) and Rashard Lewis (6-10), center Calvin Booth (6-11), guards Brent Barry (6-6) and Gary Payton (6-4). For Sacramento – forwards Peja Stojakovic (6-9) and Hedo Turkoglu (6-8), center Vlade Divac (7-1), guards Doug Christie (6-6) and Mike Bibby (6-1).

Next game: San Antonio at Seattle, 7 p.m. Thursday.

Roster set: The Sonics finalized their roster on Monday, placing guard Shammond Williams and center Pedrag (Peja) Drobnjak on the injured list. Williams has a broken finger on his left hand and will miss approximately three more weeks. Drobnjak has a sprained ankle and is expected to be out another two weeks.

Seattle’s 12-man active roster will include six players from a year ago – guards Gary Payton, Brent Barry and Desmond Mason, center Olumide Oyedji, and forwards Vin Baker, Rashard Lewis – and six newcomers – guard Earl Watson, centers Calvin Booth and Jerome James, and forwards Vladimir Radmanovic, Art Long and Antonio Harvey.

Medical report: Several Sonics suffered training camp/exhibition season injuries, and that list grew by one during Friday’s exhibition finale against Sacramento. Center Calvin Booth sprained his right ankle in the game and missed Saturday, Sunday and Monday practices.

Still, Booth said he expects to play tonight.

“It’s a little sore,” said Booth, Seattle’s top offseason free-agent acquisition, “but I’m pretty positive I’ll be all right for (tonight). I wanted to give it a go (at practice Monday), but it was best to just give it a rest.”

The good news was that forward Vin Baker, who missed exhibition games Thursday and Friday with a strained back, worked out on Monday and is likely to be in tonight’s starting lineup.

“Monday) was the first day I got contact, and it felt good,” Baker said. “So I’m excited about playing (tonight).”

If Booth cannot play, the Sonics would probably move Baker to center and start rookie Vladimir Radmanovic at forward.

Scouting report: The Sonics get an obvious break tonight as Kings forward Chris Webber, who led the team in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and minutes played, will sit out with a sprained left ankle. Webber, a first-team all-NBA choice a year ago, was hurt in an Oct. 14 exhibition game against Dallas and will miss 4-6 weeks.

Even without Webber, though, the Kings “have a solid rotation,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “They can go small or they can big at the guards. They definitely have guys to replace other guys in case of injuries.”

“They’re still a very good team and we’ll have to play a very good game to beat them,” Booth said.

Sacramento will also have a different backcourt look due to the offseason trade of guard Jason Williams to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Mike Bibby. With the Grizzlies last season, Bibby had career-best averages of 15.9 points and 8.4 assists a game. His assists mark was fourth-highest in the NBA, trailing only Phoenix’s Jason Kidd (9.8), Utah’s John Stockton (8.7) and Denver’s Nick Van Exel (8.5).

The Kings will be looking for Bibby to bring more stability to the point guard position than they had with the flashy, but often inconsistent Williams.

Tough place to play: Few NBA gyms have the same reputation for rowdy, raucous fans as Sacramento’s Arco Arena. Crowds there love taunting opposing teams almost as much as they love cheering their Kings.

“Their crowd is probably one of the best in the league as far as supporting that team, whether they are up 20 (points) or down 20,” McMillan said. “Their crowd is always into the game, and (the Kings) feed off that crowd. I think it’s a great atmosphere to play in. I think it’s the right atmosphere to play in on the road, and our guys should be excited playing there.”

“I expect them to get up and down the floor and try to run us out of the gym,” said Baker of the Kings, who split four games with Seattle a year ago. “They’ll be using the energy they’ll have from their fans.”

Rating the West: A year ago, the last team to make the playoffs in the NBA’s Western Conference was Minnesota with 47 wins, “and I think it’s going to be the same this year,” Payton said. “It’s going to be tough (to reach the postseason). It’s going to be the same way it was last year.”

Neither are there any obvious team-to-beat favorites, he added. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. It’s going to be a wide-open West because anybody can be beat.”

Getting a good start: The Sonics play three games this week (two at home) before heading to the East Coast for a five-game road trip. It would be nice, Baker said, to leave town with some momentum.

“We want to get off to a great start,” he said. “As coach McMillan has been saying, these first three games are important for us. We’ve got to get off to a very fast start. We don’t want to start that road trip off being 0-3 or 1-2.”

Rich Myhre

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