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."