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Originally published Wednesday, December 28, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics

Ridnour misses trip East

For the first quarter of the season, the Sonics had been relatively injury-free, but their good luck has run out. Luke Ridnour's chest contusion...

Seattle Times staff reporter

For the first quarter of the season, the Sonics had been relatively injury-free, but their good luck has run out.

Luke Ridnour's chest contusion, which he suffered Friday, prevented him from traveling with the Sonics on their two-game trip that begins tonight in Minnesota and concludes Thursday in Denver.

Ridnour, who underwent a CT scan Tuesday, will have his streak of 113 consecutive games played snapped and will undergo further evaluation in Seattle.

There's no timetable for his return and the Sonics (12-14) have no clear-cut plan on how they will replace him.

Normally, Ronald Murray would slide into the vacancy, but he dislocated two fingers on his right (shooting) hand in the final minutes of Monday's 118-111 victory against Boston and is listed as a game-time decision.

Because Rick Brunson is still recovering from a left plantar fascia tear and remains in his hometown of Philadelphia, reserve Mateen Cleaves is the only healthy point guard on the roster. If Murray is unable to play, Cleaves is likely to make his first start since the 2003-04 season when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Coach Bob Weiss, who was unavailable after Tuesday's practice, might also use Ray Allen at point guard for short stints as he did Monday.

Today

Sonics @ Minnesota, 5 p.m. FSN

During his six-year NBA career, Cleaves, a former first-round (14th overall) draft pick from Michigan State, has started just 10 games — eight as a rookie in Detroit and two with the Cavaliers.

Cleaves joined the Sonics last season and has played in 31 games as a reserve. This season, he's averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 assists.

"We don't know when we're going to get in, but I know [Weiss] does have the confidence in me and will put me in," Cleaves said after the Boston game. "I just try to stay ready. I'm not going to go in there and score 30 points because that isn't what I do. What I do is defend and run the team."

Cleaves' role differs significantly from that of Murray, whom the Sonics expect to relieve some of the scoring pressure from Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Murray had never been better this season than he was Monday when he scored 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting and dished five assists. Murray, an admitted volume shooter who needs time on the court and shots to be effective, played a season-high 32 minutes because Ridnour was unavailable.

Last season, Murray made six starts in place of Allen and 18 during the 2003-04 season.

Ridnour, who started every game last season and all 26 this season, was unable to participate in Saturday's workout and was believed to have improved on Sunday when the team did not practice.

But he appeared a step slow in his return Monday and was ineffective in the first half against the Celtics. Ridnour played 12 ½ scoreless minutes and finished with three assists and three fouls on 0-for-2 shooting. He did not return after intermission.

"The way Luke was looking at halftime, I had a feeling I might get some more time out there," Murray said Monday. "But now, my hand is killing me. I don't know. We'll just have to see how it feels [tonight].

"I know I couldn't play anymore with it feeling like it did. And if it doesn't get any better, then probably not. We'll see."

Before Ridnour, the Sonics had not lost a starter to injury. Murray missed four games in November because of back spasms and reserve forward Danny Fortson sat out three games because of a sore right toe.

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

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