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Sonics / NBA

Monday, October 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sonics facing a harmony test

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sequestered for four days at the United States Basketball Academy in Blue River, Ore., a few weeks ago, Bob Hill and his five-member Sonics coaching staff finalized plans of returning the team to prominence.

They met twice a day in four-hour sessions, once in the morning and again in the evenings. They bunked together and lived, breathed and ate basketball. As Hill put it: "We did almost everything together, as a group, except huddle around a camp fire and sing 'Kumbaya.' "

Not only did they hammer out the training-camp schedule, which begins Tuesday morning, but the coaches' retreat also sent a symbolic message to a team fractured by a midseason coaching change and a flurry of trades that preceded a disappointing 35-47 finish last season. The 10-day training camp sets the stage for the exhibition season, which begins Oct. 11 at Portland and ends Oct. 26 against Golden State.

"This team innately has really good chemistry, but I don't think it has real good harmony," Hill said. "That's going to be their challenge from the beginning of camp. They've got to communicate more often off the court and on the court and in the locker room. And it's got to be more than just Ray Allen.

"Last year, every team meeting I asked a question and Ray Allen would answer it. So, finally I said, 'Ray Allen is not allowed to talk.' Then nobody would talk, so I had to make them talk. This was early on, and by the end of the season they were all starting to give their opinions. The bottom line is we need more people being accountable."

The Sonics' harmony will be tested early in camp because of intense competition at two positions, point guard — the most notable clash, involving Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson — and center. Last season, Hill hinted there might be a change on the horizon, and on Friday he confirmed that the starting position no longer belongs to Ridnour, a two-year starter who enters the final season of a four-year rookie contract.

Exhibition schedule


Oct. 11, at Portland, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 12, at L.A. Lakers (Anaheim), 7 p.m.

Oct. 15, at Chicago (Lawrence, Kan.), 11 a.m.

Oct. 20, Portland, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21, at L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 23, at Phoenix, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25, Sacramento, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26, Golden State (Spokane), 7 p.m.

Perhaps as a way of downplaying the matter, Hill said no one has won a starting job and even went so far as to suggest that reserve Damien Wilkins and rookie Mickael Gelabale will push Rashard Lewis at small forward.

But barring injury, Allen, a six-time All-Star, and Lewis, a one-time All-Star, will start alongside Chris Wilcox, who signed a three-year, $24 million, incentive-laden contract in the offseason.

"I like Luke starting and getting us into games, because he's very good at that, and I like Earl coming in behind him because he speeds the game up and there's more unpredictability when Earl comes into the game," Hill said. "But I'm not married to that, because Luke needs to play better defense. We'll just have to see."

Each day, rookie center Mouhamed Sene appears to gain ground on incumbent Johan Petro and backup Robert Swift, Hill said. During a 90-minute interview on Friday, the Sonics coach devoted about 10 minutes to praising the No. 10 overall draft pick with the 7-foot-8 wingspan.

"Sene is going to be in the mix," he said. "He's going to be in there. He has a lot to learn, but there's a lot of moments when he's on the floor, you say, 'Holy crap, do we need that,' because of the way he instinctively plays. He's so quick. Just his presence."

Notes

• Paul Silas, former Sonics player and NBA coach, will be the keynote speaker at a team dinner tonight at KeyArena.

• Single-game tickets for home games during the first half of the 2006-07 season, including exhibition and regular-season games, will go on sale on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Prices start at $10.

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

Sonics training-camp roster
The Sonics have 12 players under contract, and are expected to open the season with 14 or the league-maximum 15.
No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Age From Exp.
3 *Kenny Adeleke F 6-9 245 23 Hartford R
34 Ray Allen G 6-5 205 31 Connecticut 10
2 *Denham Brown G-F 6-6 220 23 Connecticut R
4 Nick Collison F-C 6-9 255 25 Kansas 2
33 *Desmon Farmer G 6-5 220 24 USC R
16 *Noel Felix F 6-9 225 24 Fresno State 1
21 Danny Fortson F-C 6-8 260 30 Cincinnati 9
15 Mickael Gelabale F 6-7 215 23 France R
7 Rashard Lewis F 6-10 215 27 Alief Elsik HS (Texas) 8
5 *Milt Palacio G 6-4 210 28 Colorado State 7
27 Johan Petro C 7-0 247 20 France 1
8 Luke Ridnour G 6-2 175 25 Oregon 3
9 *Kareem Rush G 6-6 215 25 Missouri 4
18 Mouhamed Sene C 7-0 230 20 Senegal R
31 Robert Swift C 7-1 245 20 Bakersfield HS (Calif.) 2
25 Earl Watson G 6-1 185 27 UCLA 5
54 Chris Wilcox F 6-10 235 24 Maryland 4
12 Damien Wilkins G-F 6-6 225 26 Georgia 2
29 *Mike Wilks G 5-11 180 27 Rice 4
*Training-camp invitee, not under contract.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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