Westphal tired of coddling

  • FRANK HUGHES / News Tribune
  • Monday, November 20, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


News Tribune

No more Mr. Nice Guy for Seattle SuperSonics coach Paul Westphal.

No longer is he willing to cater to hurt feelings, big reputations or bad relationships. With the Sonics struggling to a 4-7 record and Westphal’s job a constant source of conversation around the league, he has decided to go with the best players on the court at the time.

"I am more worried about matchups than giving guys minutes," Westphal said after the Sonics’ practice at Loyola Marymount University on Monday as the team prepared for tonight’s contest in Dallas with the Mavericks. Seattle stayed in the Los Angeles area for two days after playing the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

Although Westphal won’t say it publicly, there is no question he is displeased with the play — once again — of Vin Baker.

In a loss to Dallas last week, Westphal put Baker and Patrick Ewing in the game with less than seven minutes remaining — primarily because they are the team’s starters — and the Sonics holding a 10-point lead. Although Baker had not played well, Westphal did not want to risk hurting the feelings of the sensitive Baker.

As it turned out, the Sonics blew the lead and lost the game.

"That was kind of the last straw," Westphal said.

Against the Clippers on Saturday night, Baker once again was not playing well, and Westphal yanked him four minutes into the second half and didn’t play him again. He said it was because Baker was not moving well — and, indeed, Baker missed practice Tuesday with a sore hip — but after the game, Baker said he felt fine.

Westphal hasn’t spoken with Baker about the events.

"I have an open door policy," Westphal said. "I assume everything is fine."

But it is clear that Baker will not be given preferential treatment any longer. In addition to showing signs of last season’s malaise, he has not displayed any of the quickness he had in the preseason. He has also been ineffective defensively.

"We’re too slow sometimes, and we’re not going to have that be a problem anymore," Westphal said. "When we are effective, it starts with the defense. And the only way it can be really good is when we are quick enough."

Although only Baker and the team’s trainer know, Baker looks as if he has regained some of the weight he lost over the summer. Part of the problem is that he has an injured left knee, and on off-days he has been unable to practice.

Baker also doesn’t have the lift in his jump he had earlier in the season.

"The No. 1 thing we have to do is we have to get wins," Westphal said. "And we obviously started out the season not getting the wins. It’s become apparent that the nights we are not quicker defensively than the other guys are the nights we struggle the most. We are going to find a way to have the quickness on the floor.

"If we are going to get beat, we are not going to get beat the same way over and over. I feel like I’ve given us a chance to function, giving away some matchups, and we have not functioned well. So I am not going to beat my head against the same wall."

Talk to us

More in Sports

Jackson High School is awarded the 2023 WIAA class 4A softball championship trophy in Richland, Wash., on Sat., May 27. (TJ Mullinax/for The Herald)
Jackson wins state title over GP after game called by weather

The Timberwolves win 5-1 to hoist their third state softball trophy since 2018 after a game that ended in unusual fashion.

Lake Stevens’ Grant Buckmiller takes a peek at the clock as he runs to the title in the 4A boys 200 meter dash during the WIAA State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State track: Lake Stevens sprinter Buckmiller blazes to multiple titles

Also, Kamiak’s Kalia Estes and Jaedyn Chase claim championships and more on local title winners and state placers.

A Snohomish player slides safe into third during the 3A softball championship game between Snohomish and Peninsula at the Lacey-Thurston County Regional Athletic Complex in Olympia, Washington on Saturday, May 27, 2023. Snohomish lost, 4-1. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish falls in 3A softball title game, takes 2nd place

The Panthers make a run to the state championship tilt, but lose to top-seeded Peninsula 4-1.

State tournaments roundup for Saturday, May 27

State tournaments roundup for Saturday, May 27: SOFTBALL 4A State Tournament At… Continue reading

Golf no art.
Scores from Round 1 of the 92nd Snohomish County Amateur

Koen Solis and Daniel Kim each shoot 67 and are tied for a three-shot lead after the opening round at Legion Memorial.

Kamiak’s Jaquan Means reacts to winning heat 3 of the boys 110 meter hurdle finals at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington on Friday, May 26, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
State track roundup: Kamiak’s Means wins 4A 110m hurdles title

Wesco runners finish with the top three times in the event, plus a roundup of the rest of the local action from Day 2.

Edmonds-Woodway boys soccer overpowered by No. 1 Lincoln

The Warriors fall in the 3A state semifinals 6-1 and will face No. 7 Lakeside in the third-place game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

State softball.
4A state softball roundup: Jackson, GP reach semifinals

Both teams survive quarterfinal nail-biters to keep state-title hopes alive; Kamiak remains alive in consolation bracket.

State tournaments roundup for Friday, May 26

Prep roundup for Friday, May 26: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Most Read