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Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:21 A.M.
By Percy Allen
The dissension spread like wildfire on Internet message boards and culminated with five giant words written on a banner attached to a plane that flew around Seattle yesterday afternoon.
"Go Sonics Fire Wally Walker!!"
The organizer of the stunt, J.C. Hawley, who leads a group called Sonics Fans United, said he wanted to bring attention to not just the season's 36-45 record, but what he feels is shoddy leadership since Walker, the Sonics' president, assumed a position in the front office 10 years ago.
"Basically what we want is better basketball," Hawley said. "I've never been a fan of Wally Walker from the time he signed Jim McIlvaine, and it's only getting worse.
"I don't know where it's going to go from here. It gave people an outlet for their frustrations."
Walker, who attended last night's home finale, said he is aware of the disgruntled fans.
"We'd rather have that than apathy," Walker said. "I wish the resources were directed towards tickets. ... If you don't like the direction of the team, I'm certainly responsible. I like the direction of the team. We're not there yet, but we'll get there."
Hawley said his group hatched their plan a few weeks ago while communicating on Internet message boards. They considered buying a full-page ad in the city's two major newspapers as well as hiring a skywriter.
They settled on the banner, which cost roughly $1,000 and flew over downtown for 2-1/2 hours.
"Asking for somebody's job, I don't think that's really right because it's his livelihood, but you only have so much space and you want to make a statement," said Hawley, who manages a local parking company. "This franchise needs a different direction, and he's on top. I don't think he's a good leader.
Vladimir Radmanovic, who missed five games because of an injured right ankle, was activated yesterday and played 27 minutes last night. To make room for him, free agent Leon Smith, whom the Sonics signed last week, was placed on the injured list.
Smith appeared in just one game, scoring two points and collecting two rebounds in four minutes against San Antonio. The 6-foot-10 forward starred with the Great Lakes Storm in the Continental Basketball Association before joining the Sonics.
"I think he's a raw kid that has a body that the NBA needs," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "If he works with a coach on just some basic footwork and some moves and works hard at it, he can be a player in this league."
Houston faced the Sonics without its starting backcourt, guards Steve Francis (inflamed left elbow, right wrist sprain) and Cuttino Mobley (left shoulder contusion).
Game at a glance
Player of the game: Mark Jackson, the oldest man on the court at 39, scored a game-high 25 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field. He sank 14 of 17 free throws and dished out nine assists. Jackson also had five rebounds.
Play of the game: Late in the second quarter, Ray Allen used a crossover dribble to elude Jim Jackson and drove to the basket, where he was confronted by Scott Padgett. Allen leaped, contorted his body and flushed a reverse dunk over the Rockets forward.
Turning point: Houston scored on five of its final seven possessions to hold off the Sonics.
Next: Los Angeles Clippers, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Staples Center.
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