The season hasn't started and already the backup plan is in effect
By Ian Thomsen
Team Page | Conference ranking: 10 | Overall ranking: 17
When rookie Nick Collison, the No. 12 pick from Kansas, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery early in training camp, the Sonics turned to Plan B: making 6'10", third-year man Vladimir Radmanovic their starting power forward.
Radmanovic, 22, prefers to play small forward, but now accepts that he cannot take that spot from Rashard Lewis, who will earn a guaranteed $53.8 million over the next six seasons. But since coming to Seattle from Serbia and Montenegro as the No. 12 choice in 2001, Radmanovic has wanted to do more than stand on the perimeter and knock down the occasional jumper. "There are times when some players want a bigger role, and it bothers them that they don't get it," says coach Nate McMillan. "He has to accept that the ball is going to Ray Allen and Lewis most of the time."
Radmanovic's icy relationship with his coaches made him the subject of trade talks before the draft in June. When those negotiations fell through, Radmanovic attempted to get back in the team's good graces by spending most of the summer training in Seattle. Eventually McMillan and Radmanovic came to an understanding: Radmanovic will be allowed more offensive freedom as long as he does the banging and board work that the team had expected from Collison.
The Sonics aren't going to win with defense, so they'll need Radmanovic's ability to score and create plays to keep pace. "The last two seasons they've wanted me to wait in the corner and spread out the defense," he says. "Now the coach is telling me that he's going to give me the ball and let me do more things in the paint. That's the promise he made, but it's also on me to make good decisions and build confidence with my coaches and teammates."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Sonics
"In Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic they have probably the best group of four shooters on one team in the NBA. Each is capable of hitting five three-pointers in a game. One night the Sonics might score 115, but the next night, if the jumpers aren't dropping, they won't reach 80.... Despite all those scorers, they play an unselfish style with excellent ball movement. Seattle is up there with Sacramento and San Antonio among the best passing teams.... The Sonics were 18-12 after their trade for Allen, who is the best in the NBA at coming off a screen, catching the pass and going straight up with his shot. There used to be friction between Gary Payton and the other Seattle players, but they all seem to accept that Allen is the focal point.... Lewis has supplemented his perimeter game with some decent post-up moves and his scoring has improved each of his five years in the league.... Radmanovic gets compared with Dirk Nowitzki, but early in his career Nowitzki developed a post-up game that he used to exploit mismatches. Radmanovic won't be a consistent player until he is able to do that.... They don't have good individual defenders, yet they'll play decent team defense. Take Barry: He's one of the poorest one-on-one defenders you'll find, but at 6'6" with long arms he's a very good help defender. Look for them to play a lot of matchup zones.... Eventually Luke Ridnour, the Number 1 pick from Oregon, is going to take over at the point, and he'll be a good fit with their up-tempo style. But Antonio Daniels is the only Sonic who can defend the good point guards.... Calvin Booth is one of the biggest free-agent busts in the league. They signed him in 2001 and he's getting $24.5 million over the next four years, but I can't see what he's going to give them in return."
Issue date: October 27, 2003