Sonics Update

  • Friday, November 7, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

Opponent: Atlanta Hawks

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: KeyArena

TV: KONG (Ch. 6/16)

Radio: KJR (950 AM)

Longtime rivals: Because NBA point guards typically run their teams as players, they often have qualities that help them become good head coaches.

Seattle’s Nate McMillan and Portland’s Maurice Cheeks, for instance.

Their professional playing careers overlapped seven seasons – Cheeks, who is eight years older, got into the league first and retired first – and in that time McMillan developed a deep respect for Cheeks, who played 11 of his 15 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“He was one of my favorite guards,” McMillan said. “I kind of used to copy his game. Both he and Magic (Johnson). But I really liked Mo’s game. Just the way he ran his team. He was a true point. His strongpoint was at the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, he wasn’t so much a scorer because he looked to set people up at first. He was just solid.

“He also wasn’t a player who did a lot of talking. He went out there to play the game. I never saw him talking trash or mouthing off. His focus was on his team.”

Cheeks is one of a handful of former backcourt players who are McMillan’s playing peers, a list that includes Milwaukee’s Terry Porter, New Jersey’s Byron Scott, Orlando’s Doc Rivers and Phoenix’s Frank Johnson. And the same competitiveness that marked their earlier on-court confrontations still kicks in today.

Going against those guys,” McMillan said, “It gets personal.”

No Allen: Sonics guard Ray Allen did not return from Los Angeles as expected on Thursday, five days after having arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle. Allen was evidently experiencing some nausea after having his stitches removed earlier on Thursday and it was decided to have him remain in LA for another day or two.

Getting better: McMillan is beginning his third full season as Sonics coach, and in that time team general manager Rick Sund has seen a steady progression.

“I see a confidence and a swagger in Nate this season,” Sund said, “and that shows me he’s more and more comfortable with what he knows as a coach.”

Familiar faces: The Sonics hired Jack Sikma as a special assignments coach in the offseason. Portland hired Dennis Johnson as an advance scout/assistant coach over the summer. Both men had seats behind their team’s benches for Friday’s game.

Sikma and Johnson, of course, were starters on Seattle’s 1978-79 NBA championship team.

Blazers roster move: Three days after a post-practice spat with Cheeks, Portland guard Derek Anderson was placed on the injured list. He was replaced by guard Matt Carroll, who was cut by the New York Knicks in training camp this year.

Rich Myhre

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