ANAHEIM, Calif. — Coach Bob Hill set the agenda for the season on the eve of training camp more than a week ago. With the Sonics seated at tables during a tipoff dinner ceremony, he made everyone in the room take a long look at Johan Petro, Robert Swift and Mouhamed Sene.
"We've got to embrace these guys," he said.
It wasn't just a statement, but also a plea because Hill knows that at times this season the development of Petro, Swift and Sene is going to be counterproductive to winning.
At times they're going to undermine the Sonics' effort with silly fouls and defensive gaffes that will test Hill's resolve and make fans wonder why he doesn't move backup power forward Nick Collison to center.
Thursday night's 104-101 exhibition defeat to the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers at the Honda Center was one of those times.
"Some days we'll go small and we won't have a 5-man [center] in the game," Allen said. "If they [the coaches] say I'm not comfortable with how they're playing, I wouldn't see why we wouldn't go that way."
Hill hasn't given any indication he's willing to make that move, but Allen noted the Sonics can afford to be patient during the exhibition season. Once the regular season starts, "we can't give anything away."
Allen and Rashard Lewis once again led the way in the second game of a back-to-back set. Each finished with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
Earl Watson, who started in place of injured Luke Ridnour, finished with nine points on 3-for-8 shooting, with four assists and three turnovers.
But it was Collison who shined brighter than anyone else. Despite six turnovers, he led a quintet of reserves in the fourth quarter and turned the final five minutes into a seesaw affair.
Without coach Phil Jackson (hip-replacement surgery), Kobe Bryant (right-knee surgery), Chris Mihm (right-ankle surgery) and Sasha Vujacic (strained left foot), the Lakers (2-0) turned to Brian Cook (16 points) and Ronny Turiaf (15).
While everyone else appeared to wilt in the fourth quarter, the Sonics (1-1) looked for Collison on nearly every offensive possession, and he scored 14 of his game-high 20 points.
Collison was so good, he nearly overshadowed the potentially large problems looming in the middle of the Sonics' roster.
"It's one of those situations where somebody has got to win and beat the other two out for that spot," Allen said. "One of them has got to do something. Right now, I don't see anybody stepping up and saying this is going to be my spot and I'm going to hold this all year."
Petro may have started for final time. He angered Hill after collecting three first-quarter fouls in four minutes. In the third quarter, Petro played nearly 3 ½ minutes and picked up two more fouls. He finished with four points, three rebounds and five fouls in 8 minutes, 17 seconds.
In his second NBA game, Sene (two points and one rebound) showed he still has plenty to learn.
Swift appears to be the best of the trio by default. He snagged eight rebounds and was the only center to block a shot, but he also struggled with fouls — collecting four — and tired at the end.
• Ridnour returned to Seattle on Thursday to undergo medical exams on the sprained right thumb that he injured in Wednesday's game at Portland. The X-rays didn't reveal any structural damage, but he won't play in Sunday's game against Chicago and is expected to return for the Oct. 20 game against Portland.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SEATTLE — Wilcox 2-3 0-0 4, Ras.Lewis 6-10 3-3 15, Petro 2-2 0-0 4, Allen 6-10 3-4 15, Watson 3-8 3-6 9, Sene 1-1 0-0 2, Swift 1-4 0-0 2, Farmer 1-2 2-2 5, Adeleke 0-0 2-2 2, Collison 9-12 2-2 20, Wilks 1-4 2-2 4, Wilkins 4-10 5-5 13, Gelabale 1-5 2-2 4, Palacio 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 38-73 24-28 101.
L.A. LAKERS — Radmanovic 1-8 3-6 6, Odom 2-5 0-2 4, K.Brown 5-7 1-3 11, Evans 1-3 2-2 5, Parker 2-2 0-0 6, McKie 0-1 1-2 1, Williams 1-3 0-0 2, Bynum 2-2 2-2 6, Cook 7-10 0-0 16, Walton 5-8 0-0 10, Farmar 4-9 1-1 10, Pinnock 1-4 0-0 2, Turiaf 6-8 3-8 15, Green 3-6 2-2 8, Wafer 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 40-76 17-30 104.
||31 24 21 25 — 101|
||23 30 20 31 — 104|
— Seattle 1-12 (Farmer 1-2, Wilkins 0-1, Gelabale 0-1, Ras.Lewis 0-2, Allen 0-3, Watson 0-3), L.A. Lakers 7-14 (Cook 2-2, Parker 2-2, Evans 1-1, Farmar 1-2, Radmanovic 1-3, Odom 0-1, Pinnock 0-1, Williams 0-2). Fouled out
— None. Rebounds
— Seattle 45 (Swift 8), L.A. Lakers 43 (Cook 6). Assists
— Seattle 15 (Watson 4), L.A. Lakers 29 (Farmar 5). Total fouls
— Seattle 30, L.A. Lakers 26. Technicals
— L.A. Lakers Defensive Three Second, K.Brown. A
— 11,669 (18,997).