Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| October 3, 2005
To know that this year's Media Day was a little different for Bob Weiss
, beginning his first season as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics after 11 years as an assistant, one needed only see the crowd of media that joined Weiss at a table to discuss the upcoming season.
"I was looking forward to it last year," said Weiss. "I had two questions and I hit the showers. I was out of here. I was back watching television at the Hampton Inn. So it was quite different."
That won't be the only difference for Weiss as he replaces Nate McMillan at the helm of the Sonics. While major changes are not in order, Weiss reiterated that he will be making some adjustments to reflect his coaching style.
"The reason I'm here is because we like the direction the team is going and we'd like to continue that, but there's some things we need to get better at."
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
"(Players are) going to see just tweaks in the system," said Weiss. "The reason I'm here is because we like the direction the team is going and we'd like to continue that, but there's some things we need to get better at, and we're really going to tackle those hard. The main one is our defense. We were 46 field-goal percentage, and that's not good. We've got to drop that."
Weiss spoke briefly about changes, notably looking to push the pace more than last season, when he was introduced as the Sonics head coach at a July press conference. Today, in a more relaxed setting with the team's beat writers, he went into more detail. Of particular interest was Weiss' philosophy on running the court.
"We want to play more like the Lakers of old," he said. "When that shot goes up and the rebounder gets the ball, he's looking for one guy - he's looking for Luke (Ridnour). I want the other three people sprinting down the court. It's like (James) Worthy and (Byron) Scott. When that ball turned over, their heads were down like a sprinter in a hundred-yard dash and they were just going, because they knew they had to get to the scoring area because Magic (Johnson) was going to deliver the ball. That's how we want to play."
The NBA has slowed in the two decades since the Showtime Lakers ruled the league, thanks in large part to coaches who wish to control the flow of their team's offense. Weiss is looking to cede much of that responsibility to his point guard, Ridnour, as well as the team's scoring threats, hoping that makes them more dangerous.
"We are going to have very little structure when we get down there," Weiss explained. "We'll free their minds to play basketball, which is what they do pretty well. After that, we'll flow into something else."
Last year, the Sonics had much success with freelancing in their half-court offense, a style which made them unpredictable and difficult for opponents to scout. Weiss is looking to extend that to the team's transition attack.
When the Sonics move into the half-court, Weiss indicated he'd like to make heavy use of the flex offense, in which the ball is moved from side to side to force the defense to react. The Sonics number of versatile players who can handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter makes them ideal for this set, and Weiss noted the team had much success with it last season.
Given that the Sonics already boasted one of the league's best offenses in 2004-05, but were below-average at the defensive end of the court, Weiss' focus during camp will be on defense, where he wants his players to become better at playing team defense when a defender gets beat.
"We are going to contain the ball, then we are going to help, then we are going to help the helper," Weiss said. "Those are things we were weak in last year. Our transition defense was weak. During camp, our biggest focus is going to be improving all those defensive segments."
That philosophy has been influenced by the newcomers to the Sonics coaching staff, notably NBA veteran Bob Hill.
"I went out specifically looking for coaches that coached with defensive people I respected," said Weiss. "Bob Hill has worked with Larry Brown and Hubie Brown."
Weiss will also use training camp to sort out his starting lineup and rotation.
"Everybody's got a chance to start," he said. "The players will determine what the rotations are going to be and who the starters are going to be in exhibition and training camp."
After that, however, Weiss admitted that incumbent starter Ridnour and All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis probably don't need to worry about their starting jobs. At center, veteran Vitaly Potapenko enters camp with a lead in the battle to start. Power forward, manned last season by Reggie Evans, who remains a restricted free agent, will be a competitive battle, as will several spots behind the starters.
Weiss delivered a surprise when he indicated he ideally doesn't want second-year big man Nick Collison to start at power forward, explaining that he's looking at his starting lineup less as the five best players and more as the best possible combination of five players.
"He's going to be a guy who's going to be on the floor at the end of the game and finishes, but I like bringing him off the bench."
"To me, it's more about putting pieces together and blending them and substitutions; it's not about just putting the best five players out there," Weiss explained. "I think he'd have a great shot at being a starter right now, but I'd rather bring him off the bench.
"I really liked bringing him off the bench with (Danny) Fortson last year. I would like someone else to become the starter, because I don't want to wear him out at that position. Right now, I'll tell you he's going to be a guy who's going to be on the floor at the end of the game and finishes; he was last year. But I like bringing him off the bench for another year, maybe a half-year. He may not allow me to; he may be so good that I've got to put him out there at the beginning of the game and keep him out there."
Also a factor is Collison's willingness to come off the bench.
"It doesn't really matter as much who starts the game," said Collison. "Last year, Vladimir (Radmanovic) played a huge role and didn't start. I got to play a lot at the end and I never started. It's not a huge thing to me. I'd like to play a lot, though."
That shouldn't be an issue, with Weiss indicating he'd like Collison to average at least 25 minutes a night.
Radmanovic, who finished fifth in Sixth Man Award voting last season, has in the past made no secret of his desire to be a starter.
"There is a training camp, and that is the place to try to get a starting position," said Radmanovic. "I'm ready for that."
Evans is also in the mix, but he doesn't help his chances of starting if his decision on whether to sign with the Sonics drags on well into camp.
"I know what Reggie does, but if we're going to accomplish the things we're doing defensively, that's where it's hurting him more than anything else," said Weiss.