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Tuesday, November 8, 2005 - Page updated at 08:21 PM

Sonics

Sonics caught up in rising price of free agency

Seattle Times staff reporter

MEMPHIS — What must be remembered is that 80 games remain in the regular season and anything can happen.

That's surely what the family, friends and undoubtedly the agents of Vladimir Radmanovic, Ronald "Flip" Murray and Reggie Evans are telling the trio of Sonics who appear to have rolled snake eyes after gambling with their futures and potential fortunes.

All three eschewed long-term deals from Seattle and signed one-year tenders that will allow them to test the market next summer as unrestricted free agents.

Radmanovic might have signed a six-year, $42 million deal, but declined in favor of a $3.2 million contract. Evans turned down a two-year offer worth slightly more than $5 million for about $1 million, and Murray will make $835,000 instead of roughly $2 million this season.

They're no longer tethered to the Sonics after the season, but was the price of occupational freedom too high?

Barring a change in the Sonics' rotation — and thus far, the only continuity has been its inconsistency — future employers will ask themselves why should they dole out a big-money contract to a role player with sagging statistics?

Today

Sonics @ Memphis, 5 p.m., FSN

"Nothing is cemented in stone here," coach Bob Weiss said on Sunday. "Everybody, and I firmly believe this, will have a chance to help us this season

"You don't go through a season, rarely does this happen, and nothing changes. There's always movement, whether it's because of injuries or what have you. Some guys may not like where they're at right now, but they'll have to be patient and wait. ... Experience tells me things usually change."

Radmanovic was a candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year award last season and entered training camp on the belief that management and the coaching staff would give him a chance to win a starting job.

Not only did he fail to improve his backup status, but his time on the court has been cut in half as Weiss gets comfortable with his substitutions. Radmanovic, who averaged 29.5 minutes last season, is down to 14.5 after two games.

Weiss said Radmanovic's early-season shooting slump is not the overriding factor, but acknowledged that it's difficult to keep someone on the floor when he has connected on just 3 of 11 field goals and 1 of 6 three-pointers, and is averaging 5.5 points.

Weiss hopes the trip to Memphis, where the Sonics (1-1) play the Grizzlies (2-1) tonight, will provide a spark in Radmanovic, who scored a career-high 29 points here two years ago.

"If he's playing great defense and he's doing the rebounding, then his minutes might be extended a little longer," Weiss said. "It's got to be a feel thing. How the game is going. How the other guys are that are playing with him. I've definitely got a logjam at that position."

The logjam begins with Evans, who'll start his 53rd consecutive game at forward against Memphis. He, too, has seen his minutes diminish, from 23.8 last season to 19.0. Despite the reduction, his scoring average has improved from 4.9 to 6.0, but his rebounding average has dipped from 9.3 to 6.5.

Evans and Radmanovic have yet to make a major issue about their diminished roles, but at least they're still in the rotation, a place where Murray is not going to be tonight.

After two games, Weiss has elevated reserve guard Mateen Cleaves and forward Damien Wilkins ahead of guard Murray and into prominent positions in the rotation.

"Accepting roles is all about sacrifice," Wilkins said. "It's hard. Everyone here can play. Everyone at one point and time was the star of their team. I was a Ray Allen. Reggie was a Rashard Lewis. It's hard to do, but once everyone gets the big picture in mind, then it makes it a little more easier."

The adjustment reduces the 12-man rotation to 11 and possibly 10 if Weiss is uncomfortable with the progress that center Vitaly Potapenko has made while recovering from a strained left hamstring. Rookie Johan Petro will continue to start in place of Potapenko, who made his season debut last Friday.

Still, is 10 too many?

"At most a nine-man rotation, but an eight-man rotation is more common because you know the eight guys who are going to play," Allen said. "It's like clockwork. Who comes in and who comes out at a certain time. But that's something that we have to build to.

"Every year somebody is left off that can potentially play and give us good minutes. ... Right now we have a good 12 players, and that's where Bob is the head coach and he has to figure it out. These next 10-15 games [the rotation is] going to lock in place and it's going to figure itself out."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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