Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| October 30, 2006
A day before the deadline for 2003 first-round picks to extend their contracts, the Seattle SuperSonics announced Monday that they have come to terms on a multi-year extension with point guard Luke Ridnour
, keeping Ridnour in Seattle for the foreseeable future.
"I'm excited that it's over with and now we can just get ready to play," Ridnour told media Monday evening. "I'm glad to be in Seattle and I'm excited about the future of where we're going."
Since the 1996 Draft, first-round picks have automatically been eligible for contract extensions during the summer and training camp following their third season and before their fourth season. During that span, the Sonics had never extended one of their first-round picks before coming to terms with Ridnour. It was something of a break from tradition as well for GM Rick Sund, who had signed only one first-round pick to an extension (Jerome Williams in 1999 while with Detroit).
"I'm excited that it's over with and now we can just get ready to play."
"It doesn't happen very often in our league unless it's going to be a maximum player," said Sund. "It seems like, all of a sudden, this year there's a lot of it going on. Once you get the dialogue going and you think you're in striking distance, it makes sense for both parties. When the player gets a certain amount of security and the team gets a contract they feel very good about without having to wait for market value, you look to see if you can do it."
With both sides comfortable in opting to wait until next summer, when Ridnour would have become a restricted free agent, to address a long-term contract, there was not a great sense of urgency to discussions between Sund and Ridnour's agent, Lon Babby. However, they found common ground and began to get serious about an extension last weekend.
"We had a lot of conversation this weekend because it was pretty close," said Sund. "It was cooperative.
"You've got to get a number that's fair for him and fair for the team. I think that was it. It's a situation that he's got an upside for him that if he continues to get better and yet he still gets some decent security. We're happy with that because it's a reasonable number for us and we've got several more years with him."
From Ridnour's perspective, signing an extension was a commitment to his Sonics teammates and the team's development.
"This is where I wanted to be, so I'm excited about it," he said. "We have good guys here. I think we have a good team. I'm excited about being a part of where this organization is going, so for me it was a good opportunity to secure my future for me and my wife and go from there."
A starter in 159 games at the point over the last two seasons, Ridnour is a key part of that future. Ridnour averaged 11.5 points and 7.0 assists per game last year, ranking in the NBA's top 10 in assists per game, and could build on those numbers after working extensively with new Sonics Assistant Coach Gordon Chiesa during training camp. In his last two preseason games, Ridnour had 26 points and 20 assists on 10-for-14 shooting from the field.
"The Sonics have had a lot of belief in him and we've seen him grow," Sund said. "He had very good statistics last year and he was a starter on a team that won 50 games two years earlier."
Now Ridnour has the peace of mind of a long-term contract and the knowledge he will be in Seattle. After taking his wife out to celebrate the new pact, he's ready to put all of his focus on the start of the regular season.
"This is over with," he said. "I'm glad that it's over with. It's something you think about, but once you get on the court I was pretty good about putting it aside and just playing. It's good to have it over with. Now I know where I'm going to be and it feels good. You don't have to think about it, no more questions about it. It is what it is. It's done and now it's time to play."