With the top scorers gone, Carlesimo must rebuild the Sonics.
Last year Chris Wilcox had 20 double doubles, becoming Seattle's first player with that many since Gary Payton in 2002-03; the last Sonics' frontcourt player to reach that mark was Vin Baker
Record: 31-51 (14th in West) Points scored: 99.1 (12th in NBA) Points allowed: 102.0 (22nd) Coach: P.J. Carlesimo (first season with Sonics)
A new coach and two talented draft picks give hope to a team in transition
Don't ask P.J. Carlesimo about his starting lineup. Not yet anyway. It will
only elicit a laugh and a shrug.
"We don't know [what it will be]," says Carlesimo, who, through Sunday, had
used a different set of starters in every one of Seattle's preseason games.
"We're looking at different guys. We have no choice. We need to find out who's
going to help not only this year but also in the long term."
The lineup isn't the only thing in flux for the Sonics, a team in transition.
They jettisoned Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, their top two scorers last season,
in favor of a youth movement led by rookie forwards Kevin Durant (the second
overall draft pick, out of Texas) and Jeff Green (the fifth pick, out of
Georgetown). They also brought in Carlesimo to replace Bob Hill, hired the
youngest general manager in the league (30-year-old Sam Presti) and are led by a
fairly new ownership group from Oklahoma, which has given Seattle until opening
night to agree to build a new arena -- or else it may move the Sonics from Puget
Sound to the Red River.
Regardless of where the team will be next year, Carlesimo's priority is
building consistency. After five seasons as an assistant to Gregg Popovich in
San Antonio, Carlesimo, along with Presti, who was the assistant G.M. with the
Spurs, are trying to mold the Sonics into a similar title contender. Carlesimo
has a few pieces in place. Forward-center Kurt Thomas, a 12-year veteran, will
be a valuable influence on the young Sonics while fourth-year guard Luke Ridnour
should steady the backcourt. Wally Szczerbiak, acquired from Boston in a
draft-day deal, could make up for some of the offense Seattle lost, provided the
30-year-old stays healthy. "We're looking for continuity," says Carlesimo, "and
we know we've got our work cut out for us." -- Arash Markazi