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Originally published Monday, January 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics vs. Lakers | Wilcox, Ridnour could reignite offense

Even though they needed two weeks to win their first game, the Sonics had no problems scoring early in the season. They were a discombobulated...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Lakers @ Sonics, 7 p.m., FSN

Even though they needed two weeks to win their first game, the Sonics had no problems scoring early in the season. They were a discombobulated bunch, but despite their flaws, they could count on their offense to light up the scoreboard.

During this losing streak, which could reach seven games after tonight's matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers at KeyArena, fast-break opportunities have been rare and Seattle's transition game has slowed to a snail's pace.

It's no coincidence that two of the Sonics' fastest sprinters, Luke Ridnour and Chris Wilcox, have been sidelined with injuries during the scoring drought.

They were expected to return sooner, but after watching them participate in Sunday's practice, coach P.J. Carlesimo said they should be available against the Lakers (24-11), perhaps reigniting an offense that has averaged 84.8 points in the past six games.

"Luke should help that area," Carlesimo said. "If Luke is healthy — and by healthy, I mean that he can go full speed or close to it and sustain it — that would be one of Luke's strengths, getting us to run and getting out and playing in the open floor. So, theoretically, that should help our running game a lot.

"I don't want to imply that the reason we haven't been running is Earl [Watson] and Delonte [West]. That hasn't been why. At times it has, but they're not the main culprits. It's not like the 3s and 4s are doing a great job and Earl and Delonte are just walking it up. It ain't that. It's everybody."

The Sonics averaged 99.6 points in their first 14 games — and scored at least 100 points in eight of those. They haven't topped 96 during the current losing streak.

"It's painful to see my teammates out there playing hard and I can't contribute," said Wilcox, who will bandage his dislocated right pinkie to play. "I just want to get back on the court and help my team win. I think my team can be better with me."

The 10-day and four-game layoff has allowed Wilcox to recover from a nagging knee injury. But he still feels pain in his finger, and he has never played with this type of injury.

"It's kind of affecting me a little bit because I got to keep two fingers taped together, but at the same time I think it will be all right," he said.

With Wilcox returning, the Sonics (9-27) regain their second-leading scorer, who averages 13.3 points, and their top low-post threat. Without him, opponents have focused on stopping rookie Kevin Durant and pushed Seattle's offense attack to the perimeter.

Carlesimo didn't specify how he'll use Ridnour, who missed the past four games with a sore left thigh. West may move to shooting guard, which allows Ridnour to back up Watson.

The Sonics spent most of Sunday's practice fine-tuning the fast-break offense, which has been nonexistent lately.

"We've been not communicating effectively among the five guys that are in the game, and we've not been getting it literally point to point," Carlesimo said.

"Instead of sprinting and — boom — making a quick play and getting into the play, we've been very lethargic. So all of sudden the clock is on our back a lot, more than it should be."

Note

• F Nick Collison (thigh bruise) is questionable. C Kurt Thomas (left tendinitis strain) is probable. G/F Mickael Gelabale (Achilles tendon) will be available.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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