After losing to Orlando that night, the Sonics had an angry exchange in their locker room. When a few players made comments critical of Westphal, the coach offered to resign. The players, led by guard Gary Payton, quelled the dispute and the matter faded.
On Thursday, 10 days after the incident occurred, Westphal revealed the episode to the Seattle-area media.
“Paul has had a lot of success in his career in a lot of different ways, trusting his instincts,” Walker said before Friday’s game, “and clearly he thought it was the right time or the right way to disseminate that information.”
Westphal is in the final year of his guaranteed contract (the Sonics have an option year for next season), and any accomplishments or setbacks he has this season will be evaluated with that in mind.
Asked if Westphal was in a difficult position this season, Walker replied, “We’re 3-6. We have to take steps to rectify that. I think we took a step against the Knicks (a 96-75 victory Tuesday) and we just need to build on that. … We have high expectations and I think they’re well-placed. We’ve got to get better.”
The Sonics were the first of many teams to come away greatly impressed by the Clippers’ prize rookie.
Seattle won the game 104-92, but it was a bit of a struggle largely because of Odom. In his first NBA game, he tossed in 30 points and was virtually unstoppable. Odom delivered another 33 points in the final game between the teams, a 114-106 LA victory on the last day of the regular season (having already clinched their playoff berth earlier in the week).
“He’s extremely gifted,” Westphal said. “He’s an exceptionally good ballhandler. And his size and his quickness are what make it difficult to find a good matchup for him. On top of that, he’s an awfully good passer.”
The Clippers, Westphal said, can be a scary foe. “They’re extremely capable of beating anybody, but they still have this name Clippers where it’s some kind of disgrace to lose to them,” he said. “So it’s a game where if you get it, you breathe a sigh of relief.”
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