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Slow, but steady

Patient approach helps Sonics reload economically

Posted: Friday September 30, 2005 3:52PM; Updated: Friday September 30, 2005 6:22PM
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Vladimir Radmanovic
Vladimir Radmanovic found the market wasn't as receptive over the offseason to his 38 percent 3-point stroke as he had hoped.
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With nine free agents on their roster at the end of last season, including star guard Ray Allen, the Sonics were looking at a possible major overhaul to their surprising squad of a year ago. But GM Rick Sund remained patient, and now it looks as if he'll have most of the key pieces back for another run at the Northwest Division title.

Last week's re-signings of restricted free agents Vladimir Radmanovic and Flip Murray means Seattle has now brought back six of those players (along with Allen, Damien Wilkins, Vitaly Potapenko and Mateen Cleaves). Reggie Evans, a 6-foot-8 rebounding machine, could become the seventh, assuming Sund can reach agreement with agent Dan Fegan on a new deal. The Sonics did lose coach Nate McMillan (to Portland), guard Antonio Daniels (to Washington) and center Jerome James (to New York), but all in all Sund says he's happy.

"It's been a good offseason for a team that won 50 games," Sund says. "We kept our core together."

Of course, the key is to do it without tying their hands financially for years to come, and in that regard Sund succeeded rather nicely. Radmanovic originally was hoping for a multi-year deal in the $60-million range, but there were just no takers. Only a few teams had enough cap room, and the Sonics had the right to match any offer for the 6-9 sharpshooter. He ultimately decided to accept Seattle's one-year qualifying tender of $3.2 million, and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Murray, the team's 6-4 backup shooting guard, was reportedly seeking six years and $30 million. He wound up taking a one-year deal for $875,000 and also will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The question for Seattle now is how will Radmanovic respond to his disappointing free agent foray. Last year he accepted a bench role behind Rashard Lewis at small forward and Evans at power forward. Will the proud Yugoslavian continue to sacrifice those touches and minutes for new coach Bob Weiss, knowing that it is might hurt his statistics, and thereforew his value on the open market next summer?

Sund says he's not worried about any potential conflicts. "We've got a lot of depth," he says. "If guys don't play the right way, they won't play. Last year we had nine guys playing for their contracts and I don't think it hurt us at all. I think it helped us."