Off the Record

MORE OFF THE RECORD
Aug. 2005
Sep. 2005
Oct. 2005
When reporters want a little more information from a source, they go off the record. When you want a little more information about the Sonics from SUPERSONICS.COM and beat writer Kevin Pelton, check out the "Off the Record" blog, which features interesting tidbits and odds and ends that don't lend themselves to a full article. We'll also answer some fan questions from time to time, so send yours to sonicsconnection@sonics-storm.com.

It's Watson's League
Posted on September 23 | Permalink


Earl Watson is busy playing in the league with the Sonics, but he's also starting one of his own. The Earl Watson Youth Metro Basketball League will host 30 teams in grades 6-8 this fall in Watson's native Kansas City. The league will be free of charge to participants thanks to Watson's Emagine Foundation's support.

"It’s an age where kids can get lost in life," Watson told the Kansas City Star. "They are getting more freedom, and there’s not a whole lot going on sportswise right now."

The league will operate in both Kansas City, Mo. and the smaller Kansas City, Kan., which is where Watson grew up.

The complete press release, which highlights some of Watson's other charitable work:

September 22, 2006 – Kansas City, KS – NBA star and Kansas City native Earl Watson will launch a free eight-week basketball league for Kansas City area youth, in grades sixth, seventh and eighth.

Through Watson’s Emagine Foundation, the Washington High graduate will underwrite the Earl Watson Youth Metro basketball league. The league will operate in two districts: in Kansas City, Missouri (Missouri Valley District at the John T. Thornberry Boys and Girls Club on 3831 E. 43rd St.) and in Kansas City, KS through the Kansas City Parks & Recreation (Sunflower District at the Bethany Recreation Center on 1120 Central Ave.).

The league is open to 10 teams for each grade (a total of 30 teams). Each team is limited to no more than 10 players. At the end of the program, the top teams in the Missouri Valley District will compete with the top teams in the Sunflower District in a league tournament.

“My life long commitment towards Kansas City is as passionate as my drive in the NBA! The greatest gift of life is imagination and the ability to dream. The Earl Watson Youth Metro basketball league allows the young people of our community to enjoy a positive outlet through basketball,” said Watson.

Registration will be conducted through October 6. Space is limited. Teams must enter as a complete team (minimum of 7 players, maximum of 10 players) with a coach. League play will begin the third week of October with games conducted each week and conclude in December. Interested teams should contact Teresa Dickerson for the Sunflower District (901-229-4703) and Nodie Newton for the Missouri Valley District (816-560-6089).

Watson is currently a point guard for the Seattle SuperSonics. He recently donated $15,000 to the John Thornberry Boys and Girls Club to underwrite costs for their football program, including football equipment, trophies and the league. Watson is also funding an ACT prep course and free tutoring at the John Thornberry Boys and Girls Club. Interested high school students should contact Nodie Newton at 816-560-6089.

Back at Furtado
Posted on September 19 | Permalink


I headed up to The Furtado Center this morning to watch another day's worth of scrimmages. It was a little more quiet than last time, with only four Sonics players on the floor - Earl Watson, Ray Allen, Johan Petro and Robert Swift. Rookies Mickaël Gelabale and Mouhamed Sene are due back today from the NBA's Rookie Transitions program, as is Noel Felix, who did not attend last year. Damien Wilkins was also in New York to speak to the rookies.

In the couple of games I saw, there were some highlights. In transition, Earl Watson - who continues to play very well - made a last-second decision to pass behind his back after pinning the ball on his hip. Watson didn't even get an assist out of the pass, but another pass led to a dunk by Robert Swift, paired again with Watson and Ray Allen.

Johan Petro shot well from midrange again. I really liked one play where he faced up against Swift in the right block, then drove and hit a runner over him from about eight feet out. On the other end, Petro had a great block where he came flying in out of nowhere in transition. Swift answered with a nice play where he caught pass at the right elbow, pivoted to face the basket and then knocked down a jumper when the defense did not come out to meet him.

Collison Visits KU
Posted on September 18 | Permalink



Collison
You might have noticed that in last week's report from The Furtado Center, forward Nick Collison was absent. Collison has been around Seattle much of the summer and worked out with several teammates during the first two weeks of September, but he took last week as an opportunity to return to his midwest roots, spending four days at home in Iowa and then stopping by his alma mater, Kansas, on Friday. The Lawrence Journal-World chronicled Collison's visit, which included playing pick-up with current Jayhawks.

“I’ve been working hard, been there most of the summer trying to get stronger and work on my game,” Collison said in the article. “I played all right last year. I don’t think I had a great year. Hopefully, I’ll play better this year. I’m just looking for a little more consistency. It was an up-and-down year, but I’m ready to get going again.”

Peek Inside Sonics Pick-Up Games
Posted on September 13 | Permalink


I had the opportunity to get up to The Furtado Center this morning to watch the Sonics players in their informal pick-up games as they prepare in earnest for the start of training camp, which is now less than three weeks away.

Most of the Sonics roster has been in and out of Seattle over the last week or so, and nine players were in attendance today, including eight projected rotation players. Local players filled out the rosters, with Ray Allen - the obvious leader of the group - eventually organizing a three-team 5-on-5 tournament.

Ray's team, which also featured Earl Watson and Robert Swift, dominated, winning all four games it played against two other teams, one with Luke Ridnour, Rashard Lewis and Chris Wilcox and one with Damien Wilkins, Noel Felix and Johan Petro.

If you brought in an outsider who knew nothing about the Sonics or the NBA, they would have had little difficulty picking out Ray Allen as the perennial All-Star in the group. Allen almost always looks like the best player on the floor, and his will to win, even in pickup games, is obvious. Working against smaller defenders, Allen showed off his post game, which he doesn't often get to use in the regular season. His jumper remains as silky-smooth as ever.


Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty
I was impressed by the play of both point guards. Watson had his jumper going during the three-team tournament and displayed outstanding decision-making throughout the day. Watson was aggressive driving the lane to create shots for himself and teammates without turning the ball over. Ridnour was able to knock down the mid-range jumper and finish in transition.

The young centers both showed growth over the summer - and not just in terms of their hair, which has been allowed to grow free and long. Petro was very effective shooting the mid-range jumper, something he became more consistent at over the course of his rookie season. Robert Swift spent more of his time in the paint and was able to finish through contact with some creativity and finesse in addition to dominating the defensive glass.

Some other things that stood out: Lewis might have the most defined ab muscles of any of any members of the various "skins" teams; Ridnour also shows definition that proves he's come a long way from his scrawny rookie physique. ... Wilcox packed one dunk attempt off the back of the rim so hard the top of The Furtado Center's roof was in danger ... Felix seems to have ditched the Reebok Pump shoes he wore last season and during summer league. Allen, on the other hand, is still rocking the gold suede he wore at the end of last season (pictured at right).


J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
Elsewhere ... interesting story about former Sonics guard Ricky Pierce in the Dallas Morning News. Pierce has invented a basketball he calls AccUShot22, which has 10 black indentations to teach the proper location for a shooter's fingertips.

Given that Pierce was one of the best shooters in Sonics history, he seems like an ideal choice to help teach youngsters how to shoot. Even at age 47, I bet Pierce could shoot 90% from the free-throw line. Recognizing his greatness, apparently parents had asked Pierce to help teach their kids how to shoot, and he noticed a problem - they did not shoot with their fingertips. The AccUShot22 aims to teach kids this proper form.

"This is something where I felt I could really help kids out," says Pierce.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation ...
Posted on September 8 | Permalink


With school back in session in Washington and the NBA's summer winding down, today is a good opportunity to check in on some Sonics players' activities that slipped through the cracks over the last couple of months. How did they spend their summer vacations?

Ray Allen spent some time back in Connecticut in August, including playing in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. According to an article in the Connecticut Post, Allen's presence remains a big deal at UConn.

"I can't tell you how many kids, in Ray's second or third year, were so excited about Connecticut calling because it was the school that Ray Allen went to," said Calhoun, who has coached plenty of big names in his Hall of Fame career. "Ray is one of those players that every player from 6-2 to 6-7 wanted to play like."


Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty

Shortly thereafter, Allen visited a local teen center, where his speech to youngsters had a big impact.


Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty
Earl Watson, as pictured at right, played in former Nuggets teammate Eduardo Najera's charity basketball in Chihuahua, Mexico last month. Rashard Lewis played in a charity game the same day - but softball at T-Mac's Celebrity Softball Classic in Lewis' native Houston.

In July, center Robert Swift played in the Dan Dickau Charity Classic with a number of former Gonzaga players - though the Blazers guard who hosted the event did not play as he recovers from a torn Achilles. in Click here to check out highlights, including some throwdowns by Swifty.

Nick Collison held a basketball camp in Wichita, Kans. (as covered by the Lawrence Journal-World), while Robert Swift hosted one in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. While there, Swift was featured in an article in the Bakersfield Californian (registration required) written by Mason Kelley - the son of Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley.

Damien Wilkins is in Springfield, Mass. this weekend with his uncle Dominique, who is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Here's Damien sporting a Sonics hat with Dominique:


Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty

France Finishes Fifth
Posted on September 5 | Permalink


Despite an off night from Sonics rookie Mickaël Gelabale, the French National Team earned a fifth-place finish in the FIBA World Championship with a 64-56 victory over Turkey on Saturday.


Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Turkey rallied after France started out strong, leading 20-7 after one quarter. A turning point came with a little over four minutes left, when Turkey was called for an unsportsmanlike foul while trailing by four points. Joseph Gomis made three free throws, followed by a Gelabale tip dunk that pushed the lead to nine points. Despite poor shooting, France held on for the win.

Gelabale scored only on his tip dunk in 19 minutes of action, shooting 1-for-3 from the field, but added five rebounds. Johan Petro was scoreless in two minutes. Florent Pietrus led the French with 12 points and nine rebounds, but they won the game at the defensive end by holding Turkey to 24.2% shooting.

The fifth-place finish was impressive given that the French had to play without star guard Tony Parker, who broke a finger in an exhibition game before the start of the World Championship.

"Other than the game against Lebanon where we really didn't do well, we lose to Greece who are in the finals and to Argentina who are playing for the bronze medal," said Boris Diaw. "So we don't have anything to feel sorry about."

Gelabale finished the World Championship as France's third-leading scorer (8.7 points per game) and fourth-leading rebounder (4.6 rebounds per game). Gelabale's nine 3-pointers (on 36% shooting) led the French squad. Petro averaged 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in limited playing time over seven games, shooting 41.7% from the field.

With Labor Day Weekend in the rear-view mirror, action will begin picking up at The Furtado Center as players work out informally and scrimmage each other over the four weeks until training camp opens on Oct. 2.

Gelabale's Game-Winner
Posted on August 31 | Permalink



Gelabale
Sonics swingman Mickaël Gelabale scored the game-winning basket Thursday as the French National Team defeated Germany in the classification bracket of the 2006 FIBA World Championship. France will play Turkey for fifth place on Saturday.

With seconds left and the game tied at 73, Boris Diaw drove the lane and dished to Gelabale, who scored a layup over Dirk Nowitzki with 1.8 seconds remaining to give France the lead. The 75-73 win was secured when Nowitzki stepped out of bounds on Germany's final possession.

The game-winner wasn't Gelabale's only big basket late in the game. He hit a 3-pointer with 4:38 left to tie the game at 66-all and had seven points on 3-for-6 shooting and tied Diaw for team leadership with eight rebounds. The French overcame 29 points from Nowitzki.

For more on Gelabale and his World Championship experience, check out his interview with HoopsHype.com.

France Falls to Greece
Posted on August 30 | Permalink


Greece remains a nemesis for the French National Team. A year after knocking France out of the European Championships, Greece earned a a 73-56 win over France Wednesday to end the French's run and advance to the Semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championships.

Neither team started well on offense, with Greece leading 12-8 after one quarter. They extended that advantage to 34-24 by halftime and cruised thereafter. Five Greek players scored double-figures, but the real key to the win was holding France to 35.0% shooting from the field. Sonics rookie Mickaël Gelabale was the only French player to score double-figures, finishing with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting and grabbing five rebounds. Johan Petro was scoreless in eight minutes of action.

While Greece plays the United States, France will play Germany tomorrow in the classification bracket for fifth through eighth places.

France Advances to Quarters
Posted on August 28 | Permalink



Junko Kimura/Getty Images
With a 68-62 win over Angola on Sunday, the French National Team survived and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championships.

France raced out to a 17-6 lead after one quarter and held a 14-point advantage going to the final period before a furious Angola comeback fell short. Sonics swingman Mickaël Gelabale helped power the French attack, scoring 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Gelabale scored double-figures for the third time in six games so far during the Worlds. With Coach Claude Bergeaud tightening his rotation for the elimination rounds, Sonics center Johan Petro did not play for the first time in the World Championship.

France advances to play Greece on Wednesday, a rematch of last year's European Championship semifinals. Greece came from behind to win that game and went on to win the European crown. With a spot in the quarterfinals against, in all likelihood, the U.S. on the line, Wendesday's game promises to be another barnburner.

Rashard for MVP
Posted on August 28 | Permalink


Shawn Kemp is a versatile Sonics contributor. Not only did he entertain fans during Saturday's Sonics & Storm Legends Tour stop, he also provided a news tip for SUPERSONICS.COM. Chatting with Chris Wilcox, Kemp mentioned he had been playing against Rashard Lewis in the Nike Houston Pro City pro-am summer league.

The league, which gathers some of the Houston area's finest young talent, including T.J. Ford, Gerald Green and Emeka Okafor and NBA vets like former Sonics forward Ansu Sesay, is somewhere between the organization of the NBA and the unpredictability of playground hoops. The league's championship was decided on Aug. 16, and Lewis led his Team Black to a second consecutive Houston Pro City Championship with a 120-113 win over the PSP All-Stars. Lewis was named MVP for the second straight year after dropping 30 points in the championship game. He averaged 21.4 points overall to rank second in the league.


Lewis
My favorite bit of Lewis news, however, comes courtesy The Victoria Advocate in Victoria, Tex.

"Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis hasn't allowed his NBA stardom to cause him to forget the people who got him there," begins the article. Nothing surprising there. However, it continues ...

"Lewis, who was selected to the 2005 All-Star Game and has averaged 20 or more points for Seattle the past two seasons, gave back to his old high school coach, Jerrel Hartfiel of Needville.

"Lewis, who was coached by Hartfiel at Houston's Alief Elsik High School and went straight from high school to the NBA, purchased a new John Deere 6415 tractor at Shoppa's Farm Supply in East Bernard and presented it to Hartfiel at his recent retirement party."

Check out the article for a photo of Lewis riding shotgun as his high school coach works the controls of his new tractor. That's a story you don't hear every day.

Through to Round Two
Posted on August 24


The French National Team has advanced to the elimination portion of the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championships as the second seed from Group A, going 3-2 in pool play.

On Wednesday, the French fell victim to a surprising upset at the hands of Lebanon. Getting 29 points from Fadi El Khatib, the Lebanese jumped out to a 43-30 halftime lead. France rallied to take the lead in the final minute on two free throws by Laurent Foirest, but 1996 Sonics second-round pick Joe Vogel gave Lebanon a 74-72 lead with a 3-pointer. Boris Diaw was fouled with a chance to tie at the line, but he missed the second attempt. Sonics swingman Mickaël Gelabale rebounded, but Foirest's buzzer-beater was no good as Lebanon held on.

"We were very disappointing and we didn't take this game seriously enough," said French Coach Claude Bergeaud. "Lebanon played very hard and certainly deserved to win because they showed a lot more energy and intensity."

Gelabale had nine points, five rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes. Johan Petro added two points and two boards.

Today, France drilled Venezuela 81-61 in the conclusion of group play. In a light day's work, Gelabale had six points and two boards. Petro made the most of his 13 minutes of action, posting seven points and six rebounds.

Gelabale's 8.6 points per game tie him for third on the French squad so far, and he's added 3.4 rebounds per game. Petro, shooting a team-high 58.8% from the field, averaged 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds over the five games.

France has a couple of days off before playing Angola in the 1/8 finals round on Sunday.

French Start Strong
Posted on August 21


Despite seeing star guard Tony Parker sidelined by injury, the French squad featuring Sonics players Mickaël Gelabale and Johan Petro sits 2-1 and in second place in Group A through three days of competition at the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championships.

Parker broke a finger just four days before the start of the World Championships and was left off the French roster.

In Parker's absence, France got a tough start right off the bat, opening group play against defending Olympic Champion and favorite or co-favorite Argentina. They hung tough, trailing by just five in the final minute of play, but eventually fell 80-70. Gelabale scored 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting, while Petro had two points in limited minutes off the bench.

On Sunday, France defeated Serbia & Montenegro 65-61. In a game largely decided at the free-throw line, Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the final minute to help France secure the win. Gelabale struggled from the field, scoring all three of his points at the free-throw line, but Petro provided a key 12 minutes off the bench. Petro had eight points on 3-for-5 shooting. Diaw's 20 points led the French.

Gelabale had his biggest game of the World Championship thus far in Monday's 64-53 victory over Nigeria. The only French player in double-figures, Gelabale shot 4-for-9 with a pair of 3-pointers to score 14 points while pulling down seven boards. Petro had six points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench, though he committed four fouls in 12 minutes of play.

Thus far, Gelabale is France's second-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game, making a team-high four 3-pointers and contributing 3.3 rebounds per game. Petro has chipped in 5.3 points and 1.7 rebounds per game, shooting 63.6% from the field.

France has Tuesday off before resuming group play Wednesday against Lebanon.

Petro and Gelabale were both recognized by a FIBA poll as two of the best young players in the World Championship.

Petro Makes It
Posted on August 16


Just days away from tip-off of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Sonics center found out Tuesday that he has made the Franch squad for the tournament. It was a bittersweet moment for Petro, who replaced French veteran Cyril Julian.

“I am happy, of course, but it's difficult to express my joy as I know I earned my place over another player,” Petro told French newspaper L'Equipe.

“Everyone is a little bit frustrated. I did not want to go back home and I know Cyril didn’t either.”

Petro and fellow Frenchman Mickael Gelabale will represent the Sonics in Japan.

Petro Battling for Spot
Posted on August 10


With the FIBA 2006 World Championship in Japan just a week and a half away, the French National Team is down to its final cut. Earlier this week, the French announced that former Gonzaga big man Ronny Turiaf has made the final roster as a backup to ailing center Frederic Weis, while releasing forward Mamoutou Diarra.

That leaves one spot left on the final French roster and two players battling for it - Sonics center Johan Petro and veteran national teamer Cyril Julian. Petro, playing international ball at its highest level with the French National Team for the first time, has been inconsistent in warm-up games for the World Championship. Sonics swingman Mickael Gelabale is a lock for the French roster.

Why Bennett Loves This Game
Posted on August 9



Andy Hayt/NBAE/Getty
One of the more interesting questions from this morning's Clay Bennett press conference wondered why Bennett loves the sport of basketball. In answering, Bennett managed to tie into the ongoing Sonics 40th Anniversary celebration: "I like about everything about it, but I think I've always been taken with the extraordinary athleticism," said Bennett. "These are the finest athletes in pro sports in my mind.

"I remember to going to games when we were involved with San Antonio. I was friends with Barry Switzer. I remember we saw Seattle play the Spurs, and he talked about (Shawn) Kemp being the best athlete he'd ever seen, and he's seen a lot of athletes. I'm just taken with the athleticism, the speed of the game, the excitement of the game."

We can only surmise that Bennett might have been at the Alamodome for one of the most exciting wins in Sonics history, on Mar. 11, 1994. Vincent Askew, Vinny Del Negro and Dennis Rodman were all ejected before Gary Payton ended the game in heroic fashion with an off-balance game-winning jumper from the left corner with 1.2 seconds left. The Sonics defeated San Antonio 100-99 and swept the season series 4-0 that season.

Ray Allen's Sidekick
Posted on August 3


On Tuesday, Ray Allen joined several members of the Sonics Dance Team and others atop Pier 66 for the Seattle launch party for the new T-Mobile Sidekick III. With DJ AM, DJ MomJeans (aka Danny Masterson, formerly of That '70s Show) and Travis Barker providing entertainment, Allen celebrated the latest version of the must accessory for NBA players. Some photos:


Ray poses on the red carpet.
Ron Wurzer/BNC


Ray and Mike Belcher, T-Mobile director of sponsorships and promotions, playing Pop-a-Shot.
Ron Wurzer/BNC


Ray poses with Sonics Dance Teamers.
Ron Wurzer/BNC

In other news ... the NBA announced multiple rule changes Wednesday, most notably changing the playoff seeding so that the top four seeds in each conference will be seeded by record, as opposed to the division winners automatically getting the first three seeds. While the focus is on keeping the best two teams in each conference from facing off until the conference finals, I think the big benefit is avoiding a situation where it's much better to be a lower seed. Last year, the Clippers were much better off as the sixth seed than the fifth seed, because not only were they playing a much worse opponent in enver as compared to Dallas, they also got home-court advantage. Now, there's no longer a strong incentive to try to lose for a worse seed.

Back-to-Back Impact?
Posted on August 2


Yesterday, David Locke threw down the gauntlet in his blog:

"Did anyone else notice that we have 12 road back-to-backs?" he wrote. "24 of our 41 road games will be played in the form of a back-to-back. That means it is time for some Kevin Pelton analysis of the impact of back-to-back games on your record. "

Well, David, let's see what we find. I decided to look at the Sonics performance on the road the last five games. The road games are split into three categories: first game of a back-to-back, second game of a back-to-back and not part of a back-to-back whatsoever. The chart below also includes the Sonics total road performance in back-to-backs:

Sonics Back-to-Backs
Year
Game 1
Game 2
Total
Others
2005-06
3-11
4-9 7-20 6-8
2004-05
12-3
8-7 20-10 6-5
2003-04
4-11
7-8 11-19 5-6
2002-03
3-12
6-10 9-22 6-4
2001-02
8-6
6-11 14-17 5-5
Total
30-43
31-45 61-88 28-28
Percentages
.411
.408 .409 .500

While this sample is too small to draw really strong conclusions, the totals are interesting. You might be surprised to see that the Sonics have essentially won at exactly the same rate in the first and second game of back-to-backs over the last five years. This is not substantially different from league-wide data, and I've used it in the past to argue that the harmful effects of back-to-back sets are exaggerated.

That said, I never considered comparing the numbers in back-to-backs to other road games. Here, we find a substantial difference, as the Sonics have won an even 50% of their non-back-to-back road games over the last five years. Only one season in that span have the Sonics not been better in these games than in back-to-backs, so it seems to be a fairly consistent effect.

Why might we see this? It's possible that coaches alter their gameplans for the first game of back-to-back sets, playing their starters fewer minutes or trying to slow the pace. As a result, the fatigue effect might be seen as much in the first game as in the second game.

Thanks, David - it looks like your question turned up something interesting and unexpected.

Ridnour Dropped From U.S. Worlds Roster
Posted on July 25



Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty
Sonics guard Luke Ridnour was not amongst the 15 players selected by USA Basketball Tuesday as finalists for the U.S. World Championship roster.

Ridnour was essentially battling Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich for the third spot at point guard along with Washington's Gilbert Arenas and New Orleans/Oklahoma City's Chris Paul. Hinrich got the nod, but Ridnour still got valuable experience during USA Basketball's training camp in Las Vegas.

"I'm here for the experience, and if it doesn't happen this summer, then I've got two more years," Ridnour told ESPN.com. "When they called me during the season, they told me that there were a lot of veterans and it would be tough to make it. But I've got a bright future, and I'm excited about it."

Ridnour remains part of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team through 2008, giving him the opportunity to compete for a roster spot for the 2008 Olympics, should the U.S. qualify, and next summer's 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, if necessary.

The Sonics representatives on the French National Team, center Johan Petro and swingman Mickaël Gelabale, did survive the first cut from 17 players to 14.

Over the weekend, France's squad swept the Strasbourg (France) International Tournament, defeating Senegal (playing without Sonics rookie Mouhamed Sene), Lithuania and China.

French Coach Claude Bergeaud is not expected to pick his final 12-man roster until just before the start of the World Championship on Aug. 19. Gelabale appears to be a lock for the roster after playing well during last year's European Championships, while Petro is battling several other players for a spot up front.

Ridnour in Red, White and Blue; Miles Joins Summer Leaguers
Posted on July 21



Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty
Sonics point guard Luke Ridnour is in Las Vegas right now for the USA Senior National Team's training camp. Ridnour and 17 other players are learning U.S. Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski's system and looking to earn one of 12 spots on the team's roster for the World Championship in Japan, which start Aug. 19. Three other players are expected to travel to Asia with the team, which will play in China and Korea to prepare for the World Championship.

For complete coverage, check out NBA.com's USA Basketball section.

Of course, Ridnour isn't the only Sonics player involved with the World Championship. Newly-signed Mickael Gelabale and Johan Petro are training with the French National Team.

Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, where the Sonics earned an 88-86 victory over Philadelphia yesterday (the first loss for the Sixers in Rocky Mountain Revue play), there was a new player on the roster - point guard Aaron Miles, picked up to help fill in because Paccelis Morlende has been bothered by a quad injury. Miles, who played in the Revue with the Sonics last summer, started and finished with 14 points and four assists. Here's a feature I wrote on Miles a year ago. Miles joins with Keith Langford to give the Sonics a pair of Kansas alums in the backcourt.

With Mouhamed Sene hampered by an ankle injury, Robert Swift - who traveled to Utah but was expected only to practice and watch games, not play - has stepped into the lineup to replace him the last two games. Swift had a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards against the Sixers, blocking six shots as well.

Sonics Head to Salt Lake
Posted on July 13


The Sonics flew out this afternoon to Salt Lake City, where they'll start Rocky Mountain Revue play tomorrow. Before leaving, the Sonics made three cuts to get down to their final roster of 11 players.

Deng Gai was dropped from the roster becaue he was experiencing swelling in his left knee and was unable to play.

Notes From Practice
Posted on July 11


News, notes and observations from the Sonics Summer League squad's practice this morning at The Furtado Center:

  • Yesterday, David Locke mentioned that Mouhamed Sene seems larger than Robert Swift though both players are listed at 7-0. I think the reason is that Sene has a short head and neck, so his shoulders are higher than those of the typical 7-footer. Sene plays bigger than his listed size before even considering his ridiculous 7-8 1/2 wingspan.

  • Deng Gai sat out the 15 minutes or so of practice open to the media, apparently with a left knee injury.

  • We'll have more on him and the Sonics other second-round pick, Denham Brown, in the days to come, but Israeli guard Yotam Halperin hopes to play in the NBA this season and GM Rick Sund hinted this is a realistic possibility. Halperin still has one year left on his contract with Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv and was unsure about the buyout in his contract. French guard Paccelis Morlende, whom the Sonics acquired after he was drafted in the second round of the 2003 Draft, also hopes to come to training camp.

  • Sonics Assistant Ralph Lewis is serving as coach for the Rocky Mountain Revue.

    "I think this is great experience for them [assistants] to be a head coach," explained Hill. "(Jack Sikma) did it last summer. Detlef (Schrempf)'s next, so he's on the bench, and I brought Cameron, my son, to be on the bench."

    Cameron Hill is currently director of player development at the University of Kentucky. Naturally, the entire coaching staff, including Bob Hill, Sikma and newcomer Gordon Chiesa, will be in Utah for the Revue.

  • Practice concluded with players shooting free throws and the team running lines for misses. Andre Emmett badly fooled his teammates, many of whom started running when his shot bounced off the rim before rolling in to smiles all around.

  • One of the big attractions after practice was the new balls the NBA will using next year. They feel much different; the surface, made of a composite material, doesn't feel as deep because the dimples on the ball are much smaller. There's a chalky feeling about the balls. Wasting time while waiting for post-practice interviews over the last couple of years, I've managed to be able to palm NBA balls pretty well for someone who's 5-9, and I think it's going to take me some time to adjust even though a selling point is that the new balls are easier to palm. We'll see.

    Summer League First Look
    Posted on July 11


    I've yet to have the opportunity to watch the Sonics Summer League squad practice (that's coming tonight), but several players were at The Furtado Center working out after the Storm practiced last week, and I got the chance to at least get a look at them.

    The most noticeable thing is, without question, Robert Swift's hair. Swift, who has been working out with Mouhamed Sene and the other players in town for summer league though he will not be participating, apparently has let his fiery red locks grow long and unkempt. He's also sporting what appears to be an additional tattoo or two.

    The Storm players were still wandering off the court after practice as the Sonics filed in, and rookies Denham Brown and Barbara Turner chatted briefly. The Sonics second-round pick and the Storm's first-round pick were together for the last four years at UConn, where both won National Championships.

    Saturday Night Fever
    Posted on July 3


    At Saturday night's Storm game versus the Minnesota Lynx, the biggest story was the Storm's 19-0 run to put the game away in the fourth quarter. However, Sonics center Johan Petro also stole the show during a couple of timeouts, performing with the Storm Dance Troupe and Hip-Hop Squad and later joining Doppler and young fans for "The Train," a Storm staple:


    Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty

    Of course, if you saw Johan do the robot on Opening Night last year, you already knew the guy moves on the dance floor as well as on the basketball court.

    Petro attended the game with Sonics Coach Bob Hill and Hill's family. Petro has been in town for the last month working out regularly with Robert Swift and a handful of other Sonics who have been in and out of Seattle.

    "I work out with Coach Hill and we talk a lot about what we want to do next year," said Petro. "I think it's great to just work out, me and him - and Swift too. We've worked on a lot."

    Petro will be heading back to France this week to see whether he'll be joining the French National Team in this summer's World Championship.

    Squatch Wakeboards
    Posted on June 8


    To promote tonight's start of the NBA Finals (6:00 p.m., ABC), Squatch traded basketballs for a wakeboard, wakeboarding around Lake Washington near the 520 bridge at times with a flag promoting the Finals. Some photos:


    Squatch goes one-handed.
    Sonics Photos

    Luke Ridnour (right) provided his boat and drove Squatch around.
    Sonics Photos

    You can also check out video of Squatch on the water.

    All told, Squatch attracted:

  • 4 boats
  • 1 news helicopter
  • 2 video cameras
  • 4 digital cameras
  • 1 starting NBA point guard
  • 1 radio news reporter (4 live remotes on NewsRadio 710 KIRO, including one with Luke)
  • 15 supporting cast members
  • Thousands of onlooking commuters and a couple bottlenecks ... but, most importantly, zero accidents

    If you're looking for some analysis of the Dallas-Miami matchup .... might I suggest my column for SI.com?

    Working Out
    Posted on June 2


    I heard a fun story from The Furtado Center Tuesday night. On Tuesdays, the Sonics and Storm has Staff Hoops at The Furtado Center, which is the team's practice facility. All-America First Teamers J.J. Redick and Randy Foye were in the building, getting a tour in advance of their working out for the Sonics on Wednesday morning. The two players, both expected to be first-round picks on June 28, stopped for a moment to watch some decidedly amateur play (even though I was not in the building).

    One ticket salesman jogged past Redick and asked him, "Hey, you want to run? We need a shooter." You couldn't do much better in that regard than the ACC's all-time leading scorer, but Redick wisely declined. Foye seemed to really enjoy the action, watching with a grin on his face and shouting, "Save it!" when one player went diving after a loose ball.

    Presumably, the action was a little better the next day, when Foye and Redick took the floor to match up head-to-head.

    Last Tuesday, Sonics and KTTH 770 AM "Seattle's Luckiest Fan" winner Shawn Brady and girlfriend/Sonics lucky charm Robin attended the NBA Draft Lottery in New York. Alas, their magic wasn't enough for the Sonics to defy the odds and earn one of the top three picks, as they stayed in their initial number 10 slot. Still, Shawn and Robin got to enjoy a unique experience, having dinner with Sonics GM Rick Sund and Head Coach Bob Hill:


    Ben Wilson/Sonics Photos

    (By the way, check out the ping-pong ball centerpiece. Nice touch.)

    Congratulations ...
    Posted on May 19


    If you're reading this blog, you probably already know that David Locke has been named the Sonics radio play-by-play broadcaster. Congratulations are in order for Locke, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to continue working with him in an exciting, new role. David expanded some for SUPERSONICS.COM today on his plans for the upcoming season, and while there are plenty of discussions left as we see how that will take shape, it should be great news for Sonics fans everywhere. Look for the two of us to try to integrate a lot of our coverage, as we have on storm.wnba.com this season.

    Elsewhere, the NBA Playoffs continue to be incredible. As Detroit goes into a must-win Game 6 tonight in Cleveland, I must admit I'm a bit dubious about the Pistons ability to turn the lightswitch on. San Antonio's path to Game 7, on the other hand, looks much easier with Jason Terry suspended for tonight's game. Now, the Spurs can use Tony Parker to defend Devin Harris and not have to worry about Terry blowing by bigger defenders. Even though Dallas has the home-court advantage, I'd be surprised if San Antonio does not force a deciding game at the AT&T Center on Monday.

    But that's why they play the games. ...

    Into Round Two
    Posted on May 10


    Last week I wrote about how much I've been enjoying the postseason, and nothing has happened since then to change my mind. KJR's David Locke, writing for the Seattle P-I, wrote a similar column this morning.

    Of the two series that played last night, the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, tied at one game apiece, is the more obviously compelling matchup thus far. I'm not ready to write off the Cleveland Cavaliers, however. A year ago, the Sonics limped home to Seattle after losing the first two games in San Antonio by decisive margins. Not only that, they also had lost forward Vladimir Radmanovic to a sprained ankle. But the Sonics were still able to win both games in Seattle and extend San Antonio within a shot of Game 7.

    I was stunned to see the lopsided margin by which the Nets won Game 1 of their series with Miami on the road, only finding out the score midway through the fourth quarter. Still, to me the most interesting matchup of the semifinals pits the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns. In Game 1, the Suns continued their string of potent offense from their closing three wins against the L.A. Lakers in the First Round, but I still think the Clippers have the personnel to make this an epic series. Before Game 1, I wrote a preview of sorts for SI.com.

    Playoff Thrillers
    Posted on May 4


    If, like me, you're an NBA junky, you've got to be loving these Playoffs so far. With the three uncompetitive series out of the way, we're left to focus on five series that are taut, packed with drama and filled with star turns.

    I watched the fourth quarter and overtime of last night's Cleveland-Washington Game 5 with TiVo remote in hand, and it only heightened the excitement of one of the best games the league has seen in a while. As entertaining as the one-and-done style of the NCAA Tournament is, the NBA Playoffs are a much deeper coaching affair as matchups play out over the course of the series. Last night, Cleveland was smaller than Washington in overtime, which led to Eric Snow scoring the first six points of the period for the Cavaliers against slower, bigger defenders but Caron Butler abusing Snow at the other end (before fouling out).

    At the end, it came down to the sheer individual brilliance of LeBron - along with some poor defense by the Cavaliers with Antawn Jamison and Michael Ruffin reacting slowly when James went to the baseline, allowing him to tiptoe the line and get to the basket for the winning score.

    I'm hardly the first to say this, but tonight's Lakers-Suns Game 6 should be equally thrilling. I wrote before Game 5 that the Phoenix offense had disappointed, and the Suns responded Tuesday by shooting 48.8%, committing just eight turnovers and coming up with 12 offensive boards (more than half their Game 1-4 total), good for a 127.1 Offensive Rating that is more typical for Phoenix.

    Boris Diaw was the key, stepping up with 25 points (on 12 field-goal attempts and 11 free-throw attempts), 10 rebounds and nine assists without a turnover. Yeah, that's pretty nice. The Suns also got some production from players outside their top five (including Tim Thomas, whether he starts or comes off the bench), with Leandro Barbosa and James Jones combining for 20 points. Getting that will be even more crucial tonight with Raja Bell suspended and Barbosa likely to replace him in the starting lineup. Eddie House has been totally unproductive in this series, but he might have to step up tonight for the Suns to get to a Game 7 in Phoenix.

    In other news, the Sonics were one of eight Western Conference teams to participate in ESPN.com Page 2's All-Time Greatest Roster Tournament. Check out the all-time Sonics roster, featuring greats like Payton, Kemp and Sikma. Alas, the Sonics, seeded fifth, have already lost to Portland as all seeding held in the opening round.

    Back in Off-Season Mode
    Posted on April 28


    As we move into off-season mode at SUPERSONICS.COM, it's time to resurrect the Off the Record off-season blog. Look for Sonics-related links and tidbits until we gear up for training camp next October. Right now, things are pretty quiet on the Sonics front as the coaching staff takes a little break before beginning draft preparation, while players have largely disperesed (I did spot Robert Swift at The Furtado Center the other day when I was covering Storm practice).

    The NBA Playoffs are ongoing, and we'll follow them in this space. Last night, Indiana took a 2-1 lead over New Jersey in their series. I enjoyed seeing that, because I picked the Pacers to pull the upset before the series. Despite Denver's win, the Clippers still seem to have control of their series with a 2-1 advantage, while Chicago made a stronger statement by holding Shaquille O'Neal to eight points and four rebounds in defeating Miami last night.