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Ian Thomsen's Fast Break
Ian Thomsen
July 03, 2006
UPBEAT IN SEATTLE Teams up for sale usually slash payroll to make their books look attractive to potential buyers. Not so the Sonics, who after a 35-win season will likely add to their $51 million payroll. Seattle has a young, two-deep roster that includes athletic centers Robert Swift and Johan Petro, who are ideal for running the floor. Further emboldening the Sonics: the midseason acquisitions of point guard Earl Watson and power forward Chris Wilcox (above), who helped spark a season-ending 14--11 run. Seattle hopes to keep Wilcox, a restricted free agent, and expects to sign 23-year-old swingman Mickael Gelabale of France, a second-round pick in 2005 who spent the last two seasons with Real Madrid. One NBA team recently offered a nonlottery first-round pick for the rights to Gelabale. "We can't keep looking toward the future and rebuilding," team president Wally Walker says.
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July 03, 2006

Ian Thomsen's Fast Break

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UPBEAT IN SEATTLE
Teams up for sale usually slash payroll to make their books look attractive to potential buyers. Not so the Sonics, who after a 35-win season will likely add to their $51 million payroll. Seattle has a young, two-deep roster that includes athletic centers Robert Swift and Johan Petro, who are ideal for running the floor. Further emboldening the Sonics: the midseason acquisitions of point guard Earl Watson and power forward Chris Wilcox (above), who helped spark a season-ending 14--11 run. Seattle hopes to keep Wilcox, a restricted free agent, and expects to sign 23-year-old swingman Mickael Gelabale of France, a second-round pick in 2005 who spent the last two seasons with Real Madrid. One NBA team recently offered a nonlottery first-round pick for the rights to Gelabale. "We can't keep looking toward the future and rebuilding," team president Wally Walker says.

NOT-SO-GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Larry Brown actually did Isiah Thomas (left) a favor by trashing the team's talent and winning a pitiful 23 games last season before being fired as coach last Thursday. Brown so lowered the bar that his successor, Thomas, will probably be deemed a success if the Knicks win 35 to 40 games and make a run at the No. 8 playoff spot next season--an improvement that's hardly out of the question. The Knicks have high-effort players like David Lee and Malik Rose, as well as athletes who'll thrive in Thomas's up-tempo attack. And love him or loathe him, Stephon Marbury, if he isn't traded, will have a bounce-back year under Thomas, who will be far more encouraging than Brown was.

The other big plus that comes with Brown's departure is that there will no longer be friction between the front office and the coaching staff. Such tension has undermined the franchise since the late '90s, when then coach Jeff Van Gundy helped force out G.M. Ernie Grunfeld. Now that Thomas has total control, there will be no intraoffice squabbling over personnel moves. There will also be no excuse for anything less than a dozen more wins.

BUZZER BEATERS
3 Handicapping the three big names on the market: Allen Iverson? Likely to go later this summer. Jermaine O'Neal? 50-50. Kevin Garnett? Staying put unless he demands a trade.

2 Needing size up front as well as salary-cap room to re-sign center Nenad Krstic in 2007, the Nets could be forced to deal Richard Jefferson and his $11.2 million salary.

1 The Hawks' front office knows it has a year to prove itself before the team's murky ownership situation is resolved. That's why management is interested in acquiring Iverson and not any more long-term projects.

1