Sonics Update

  • Thursday, December 6, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

Opponent: Miami Heat

When: 7 p.m.

Where: KeyArena, Seattle

TV: None

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 Miami – forwards LaPhonso Ellis (6-8) and Brian Grant (6-9), center Alonzo Mourning (6-10), guards Anthony Carter (6-2) and Eddie House (6-1).

Next game: Seattle at Portland, 7 p.m. Saturday.

Scouting teams: On paper, you have to figure the Sonics will win tonight’s game. Not only is Miami riding a 12-game losing string, but the Heat has never won in Seattle (or Tacoma in 1994-95) in 13 tries. That makes Miami one of two winless teams (Vancouver/Memphis is the other) on the road against the Sonics.

Of course, Seattle coach Nate McMillan is hoping his players ignore such tidbits.

“It has to happen out on the floor,” he said Thursday. “As I tell our players, you don’t look at the uniform, you don’t look at the record. You play a team, and that team could get hot or they could do some things particularly well that night. So you have to be ready for them. The bottom line is that you have to play the game and win the game.

“I don’t want our team to look at any other team differently than they look at the (defending NBA champion) Lakers,” he added.

The big question for Miami tonight is whether guard Eddie Jones will be available. Jones, the team’s leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, missed Tuesday’s contest against the LA Clippers with a right knee contusion. He is expected to play tonight, but a final decision will not be made until game time.

Praising Pat: When Heat coach Pat Riley was coaching his first NBA championship team (the LA Lakers in 1981-82), Seattle coach Nate McMillan was still in high school. It is, McMillan admitted, something of a strange feeling.

“You’re just in awe,” he said, “that you’re competing against one of the best.”

Missing Mason: Sonics guard Desmond Mason, on the injured list with a sprained right knee, might have aggravated the injury when he returned to the court Sunday night, minutes after being hurt against the Milwaukee Bucks. Still, Mason played brilliantly, converting eight of nine field goal tries in Seattle’s 97-83 victory.

“When the adrenalin is flowing like that, and it’s an intense game, and you feel like you can go at that moment, your body allows you to go,” McMillan said.

The severity of Mason’s injury became apparent when he tried to leave the arena after the game.

“He was really limping,” McMillan said. “He could barely leave the building.”

Now in his second season, Mason has become “a key part to our team,” McMillan added. “He’s become one of our go-to guys. But I think it’s also the intensity that he brings to the game. I think his teammates feed off that.”

Mason must sit out a minimum of five games because he is on the injured list, which means he is eligible to be activated for next Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

Add, injuries: Sonics center Calvin Booth was close to going on the injured list himself last weekend. Instead, Booth has gallantly tried to contribute, despite a sore ankle that he sprained in Seattle’s last preseason game.

“He’s trying to play, but I know he’s not healthy,” McMillan said. “He’s trying to give us what he has. He knows we have injuries, and he’s doing what he can when he’s in there.”

The glamorous life: The Sonics played in Minnesota on Tuesday, flew to Detroit after the game, then returned to Seattle after Wednesday’s game against the Pistons. The team landed at Boeing Field shortly after 3 a.m.

Rather than put the team through a rigorous workout on Wednesday, McMillan limited the session to an offensive and defensive walk-through, films of Miami, and some time in the weight room. Given the fatigue factor, he said, “there’s just not too much you can do except review for Miami.”

Rich Myhre

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