PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: F-C Kurt Thomas*, G Earl Watson, G-F Wally Szczerbiak*, F Jeff Green(R), C Robert Swift *New acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)
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)
Don't ask P.J.Carlesimo about his starting lineup. Not yet anyway. It will only elicit alaugh and a shrug.
"We don'tknow [what it will be]," says Carlesimo, who, through Sunday, had used adifferent set of starters in every one of Seattle's preseason games. "We'relooking at different guys. We have no choice. We need to find out who's goingto help not only this year but also in the long term."
The lineup isn'tthe only thing in flux for the Sonics, a team in transition. They jettisonedRay Allen and Rashard Lewis, their top two scorers last season, in favor of ayouth movement led by rookie forwards Kevin Durant (the second overall draftpick, out of Texas) and Jeff Green (the fifth pick, out of Georgetown). Theyalso brought in Carlesimo to replace Bob Hill, hired the youngest generalmanager in the league (30-year-old Sam Presti) and are led by a fairly newownership group from Oklahoma, which has given Seattle until opening night toagree to build a new arena--or else it may move the Sonics from Puget Sound tothe Red River.
Regardless ofwhere 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 tomold the Sonics into a similar title contender. Carlesimo has a few pieces inplace. Forward-center Kurt Thomas, a 12-year veteran, will be a valuableinfluence on the young Sonics while fourth-year guard Luke Ridnour shouldsteady the backcourt. Wally Szczerbiak, acquired from Boston in a draft-daydeal, could make up for some of the offense Seattle lost, provided the30-year-old stays healthy. "We're looking for continuity," saysCarlesimo, "and we know we've got our work cut out for us." -- A.M.
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Sonics
The Sonics aregoing to struggle. They blew up the team in order to go with their young guysand build around them for the future. That was the right direction to go, butthe short-term problem is they don't have a go-to guy. . . . Kevin Durant has achance to be a really good player, but his body is still immature. Over thenext two or three years you'll see him blossom, but this year will probably beone of frustration and uncertainty, with glimpses of his spectacular talentmixed in. . . . Jeff Green has some superior athleticism. I've seen him dunk onguys hard, and he seems to have a good feel for the game. You might see himhave a little more success than Durant this season. . . . On a good team NickCollison would be the first big guy off the bench. . . . I like the defensivetenacity of Delonte West, as well as his size and the fact that he'slefthanded. He really competes, and he's a solid shooter. . . . DefensivelyLuke Ridnour is not very strong. He gets caught up in screens, and he doesn'tkeep guys out of the paint.
Last year ChrisWilcox had 20 double doubles, becoming Seattle's first player with that manysince Gary Payton in 2002-03; the last Sonics' frontcourt player to reach thatmark was Vin Baker in 1997-98.
ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
STARTING OVER With the top scorers gone, Carlesimo must rebuild the Sonics.
TERRENCE VACCARO/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
TRENA SMITH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES