Sonics update

  • Thursday, March 17, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

Opponent: Orlando Magic

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: KeyArena, Seattle

TV: FSN (cable)

Radio: KJR (950 AM)

Probable starters: For Seattle – forwards Rashard Lewis (6 feet, 10 inches) and Reggie Evans (6-8), center Jerome James (7-1), guards Ray Allen (6-5) and Luke Ridnour (6-2). For Orlando – forwards Grant Hill (6-8) and Dwight Howard (6-11), center Kelvin Cato (6-11), guards Jameer Nelson (6-0) and Steve Francis (6-3).

Next game: Seattle at Los Angeles Lakers, 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Sonics try and reign in their emotions

One day after a disappointing defeat in Detroit caused emotions to simmer, the Sonics were back on the practice court trying to put the pieces back together.

Actually, much of the work was done in the locker room as the team watched film and talked about the loss to the Pistons.

“We were frustrated,” said coach Nate McMillan, “and some things were said. That bothered all of us, the fact that we lost that game, but we don’t want to start pointing fingers. We have to stay together.”

McMillan would prefer that player complaints “stay in the locker room. Some of the things that were said, we can figure out (those problems) for ourselves. And we should.”

Seattle was 35-13 about five weeks ago, but has since gone 8-7 including losses in five of seven games at KeyArena, where the Sonics return tonight to host the Orlando Magic under new coach Chris Jent.

Because the Sonics have nine players who will be free agents after this season (one, guard Antonio Daniels is expected to pass up an option year), including six who are either starters or get fairly regular minutes, the recent setbacks have raised the issue of how free agency might be affecting the team. In other words, if one player seems to be shooting too much, his teammates might wonder, “Hmm, what’s his motivation? Is he trying to pad his stats to get a new contract?”

Five-time All-Star guard Ray Allen, himself a soon-to-be free agent, says free agency “is the only negative we have working against us. Because on any given day, one thing can spill over. It can be a phone call, maybe from somebody’s agent or somebody’s family, and they’re asking, ‘What are we going to do? What’s going to happen next year?’ That’s just human nature.

“I think up to this point we’ve done a good job of not worrying about that stuff,” he said. “I don’t foresee it as a problem because everybody wants to be successful. We want to be able to write our own futures and put ourselves in good situations, whether it’s here or some other place. … My job is to play basketball, and that’s everybody else’s job. I haven’t seen or had an inkling that anyone would do anything otherwise.”

Scouting report: Orlando, which began the season by winning 13 of 19 games, comes into tonight’s game having lost six straight and nine of the past 12. On Thursday, that slump cost head coach Johnny Davis his job.

Even though the 31-33 Magic is not an NBA power, fans at KeyArena will still get a look at some of the league’s most exciting players when Orlando makes its one visit in 2004-05.

First is guard Steve Francis, the team’s top scorer at 21.4 points a game. Seattle fans remember him well from his years in Houston and he is still the same explosive player. Francis also averages 7.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game.

Forward Grant Hill has already played more games for Orlando this season (59) than he did in his previous four seasons with the Magic (47) due mostly to ankle and foot injuries. He averages 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.36 steals.

Lastly, 19-year-old rookie forward Dwight Howard, drafted No. 1 last June out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, makes the first Seattle appearance of his pro career. He averages 10.9 points and a team-best 10.0 rebounds.

Medical report: Two Sonics left Thursday’s practice early to see the doctor for X-rays of foot injuries.

Forward Danny Fortson, who sat out Wednesday’s game with a sprained left foot, was seen walking to his car without a noticeable limp, but will probably be a game-time decision, according to McMillan.

Forward Vlade Radmanovic hurt his foot in Wednesday’s game (“Someone either stepped on him or he got kicked,” McMillan said), but is likely to play tonight.

That’s a fact: Wednesday’s loss in Detroit was Seattle’s first on the road this season when shooting at least .450 from the field. The Sonics, who were .494 (39-for-79) from the field against the Pistons, are now 13-1 in road games when they shoot .450 or better and 9-8 when they shoot .449 or worse.

Rich Myhre, Herald Writer

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