On his first day as Sonics coach, Bob Hill promised major renovations ranging from fundamental shifts in offensive and defensive philosophies...
CHICAGO — On his first day as Sonics coach, Bob Hill promised major renovations ranging from fundamental shifts in offensive and defensive philosophies, shuffling the starting lineup, rotation adjustments and a more stern approach to practices.
Perhaps Ray Allen said it best after a 2 ½-hour practice described by some players as a mini-bootcamp: “He’s a guy that’s going to rattle some cages. Whether guys like it or not, that’s what they are going to have to deal with. This is not a country club.”
The testimony was a backhanded slap at Bob Weiss, who was fired on Tuesday in part because of the Sonics’ 13-17 record and in part because his laissez-faire approach had “gotten us a little soft,” said forward Vladimir Radmanovic.
Hill, dressed in black from head to toe, wasted little time implementing his game plan during a midday practice at the Solheim Center on the campus of Moody Bible Institute.
Allen and Rashard Lewis will remain the team’s focus, but almost everything else will change.
Hill has scrapped the three-game experiment with swingman Damien Wilkins at point guard and re-inserted Luke Ridnour.
Reggie Evans, who is having the best season of his career, is likely out at power forward and replaced by Radmanovic.
“I think Vladimir Radmanovic is a very, very talented guy who creates problems for other teams,” Hill said. “He can run. He can shoot. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. He’s 25 years old. …
“It will help our team if I can motivate and get him playing somewhere close to what he’s [capable], because his presence on the floor will make it easier for Rashard and Ray. … The offense will be given back to Luke. And Vlade, if he doesn’t start and he probably will, but if he doesn’t, he certainly will be on the floor a lot.”
The most intriguing change will revolve around the center position. Vitaly Potapenko will likely move to the inactive list, and the spot will belong almost solely to youngsters Johan Petro and Robert Swift.
At times Hill will rely on Nick Collison, but essentially he plans to use the remaining 52 games to give the pair of 19-year-old, 7-foot centers as much experience as possible.
“We’re going to have rotations for positions 1 through 4 and keep the center position kind of for those guys and see how the minutes go because they need to be on the floor,” Hill said. “We need their length. We need to know what shots they can block and adjust. And they can run.
“We’ll see it’s going to be fun with them. They’re going to be scared. They’re going to make mistakes and it’s OK. And they’re going to get better.”
A few words to describes Hill’s system: “Plodders need not apply.”
As for Evans, Hill likes his effort and energy, but seems to favor Radmanovic now.
“I think we have to find a third scorer, somebody on a consistent basis who can get us some points, and I think that Radmanovic can do that,” Hill said.
Given his new coach’s comments, Radmanovic wasn’t sad to see Weiss depart. At times, he was in the proverbial doghouse this season and had his minutes reduced significantly, which he believes led to his drop in scoring.
“It’s a pretty hard situation for everybody, to be 30 games into the season and you have to change everything, but they were not going the right direction,” Radmanovic said. “It was the only logical thing that was going to happen. We all feel bad for coach Weiss, but it was probably time for changes. Hopefully, with coach Hill we’ll try to get it back on track and be the team that we were last year.”