Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| October 7, 2006
When the Seattle SuperSonics arrived for their evening practice Thursday night at The Furtado Center, they got a surprise. Instead of their third day of two-a-days, the Sonics instead found buses to take them to ACME Bowl in Tukwila, where they spent the evening bowling as opposed to playing basketball.
"We took last night off because they deserved it," Sonics Coach Bob Hill said Friday. "We're halfway through training camp and we took them bowling. They just had, it seemed, a terrific time. They competed, they were talking smack, they were bowling. I thought it was a good time to do it."
"Last night was perfect and if I was a coach those are the things I would do as well. You get the basketball tension out of the way."
Since the start of camp, there has been a sense that this year's group of players gets along much better than the group the Sonics had last training camp. Multiple players were unhappy with their contract situations, and that divided them from the team. Hill has said that, given the character of the Sonics core players, he's not worried about chemistry. Harmony - which is slightly different - was something of a concern. Outings like the bowling trip help build that harmony.
"I always say it's important for guys to get to know each other," said All-Star guard Ray Allen, "and sometimes it's hard because you get free agents that come in your camp who you don't know and you're forced to get to know them. Some we may know because we played against them and some we may know because we watched them in college. But you never really get to know who they are just playing basketball, just sitting in the locker room day in and day out.
"Last night was perfect and if I was a coach those are the things I would do as well. You get the basketball tension out of the way. So many guys, you just see each other on the basketball floor and that's it. Sometimes when you're in here for so long you start to resent either the coaches or the guys who you're playing against. You've got to develop relationships off the floor, and that's what we did last night."
While Hill likes what he is seeing as well, he cautioned that the Sonics locker room hasn't really been tested yet.
"We haven't won or lost a game yet," noted Hill. "Losing games is a real test of harmony. We're still undefeated."
A team of guards Denham Brown, Desmon Farmer and Milt Palacio and forward Chris Wilcox ended up winning for the evening. That's a mild surprise, as Allen, as competitive in bowling as basketball, was probably the favorite. Allen has hosted the "Kingpin Klassic" bowling tournament the last three seasons for his "Ray of Hope" foundation.
"I was not surprised," said Allen. "I was disappointed. I've got to get my bowling game together. It wasn't that good last night."
Hill offered a scouting report on how the rest of the Sonics fared on the lanes.
"MickaŽl Gelabale had only bowled once in his life and he was really good," said Hill. "(Mouhamed) Sene did good. I'll tell you who can't bowl - this was so funny - is Kenny Adeleke. I mean he can't bowl, God bless him. He's left-handed and he wouldn't put his thumb in the hole, just the other two fingers. He just kind of threw it and it smacked on the alley every time. He also got most improved, because he got like 39 pins the first time. Big improvement. He hung in there."
"A couple of guys can't bowl," added Allen. "I won't call any names out, but just say that some of them have been around Seattle for a very long time. When you're sitting in a bowling alley and you hear that thud halfway down the lane, that's not a good thing."
Rough Two Days of Practice
Midway through training camp, the Sonics have seen a number of players affected by minor injuries. Kareem Rush has been able to participate in some drills despite a slight tear of his left groin, but is still yet to fully practice. Forward Noel Felix has a sore right ankle suffered during Friday's practice which kept him out on Saturday. Robert Swift left Friday's practice early after getting kicked in the right shin, then got stitches in his lip after being hit in the mouth Saturday. Allen also left Saturday's practice early with an injury, believed to be a sprain, of his right index finger. Allen was scheduled to have the finger X-rayed.
For the first time in training camp, the Sonics had a full-fledged scrimmage Friday morning, dividing into two teams, coached by Assistant Coaches Gordon Chiesa (White) and Jack Sikma (Black).
The White team featured Luke Ridnour, Gelabale, Rashard Lewis, Wilcox, Johan Petro, Mike Wilks and Farmer. On the Black squad were Earl Watson, Allen, Damien Wilkins, Nick Collison, Sene, Brown and Adeleke.
The play of the day featured some patience on the part of Allen and Sene. Allen came off a Sene screen moving toward the 3-point line and could not shake defender Farmer, so he darted back inside, Sene screening again, and finally came back toward the perimeter. This time, Farmer was rubbed off and Allen rattled home a 20-foot jumper.
With former NBA referee Mike Mathis leaving Thursday - Hill said he will bring Mathis back later during training camp - the Sonics brought in local amateur referees to work practice for the first time. The use of the local refs has been de-emphasized by Hill.
"When I first got here, they had refs at every practice all the time," explained Hill. "They were a distraction, because the guys would moan at them and so the drill or the scrimmage or whatever, you wouldn't get anything out of it. So I didn't use them. I'll bring in referees for (scrimmage), but not for every practice."
Cutting down on complaining by players by issuing more technical fouls is an NBA point of emphasis this season, so Hill won't allow it during camp. When Sene began to complain about a call, Sikma yelled at him, "You're a rookie. Get to the (free-throw) line."
Later, Lewis drew a technical foul when, unhappy with a call, he kicked the ball in frustration.