From the beginning, it seemed as if Brent Barry were preparing Luke Ridnour for this moment. Soon after the Sonics called Ridnour on draft day 2003 and notified him that they had...
From the beginning, it seemed as if Brent Barry were preparing Luke Ridnour for this moment.
Soon after the Sonics called Ridnour on draft day 2003 and notified him that they had selected him 14th overall, his phone rang again.
This time it was Barry.
“He just said congratulations and that he’d been following my career and he was happy to see me coming to Seattle,” Ridnour said. “Just for someone to do that, someone that you don’t even know, shows you what kind of guy he is.”
In the days that followed, Ridnour got to know a lot about Barry.
They looked like father and son, but bonded like brothers. Despite their age difference (Barry is 10 years older), they shared meals at Barry’s Malibu, Calif., home, secrets on and off the court and discovered many similarities.
Both attended Pac-10 schools in the Northwest, Barry at Oregon State, Ridnour at Oregon. They’re both second-generation ballplayers. Barry’s father is a Hall of Famer and Ridnour’s dad coached him in high school.
On the court, the point guards have a flair for the dramatic, attempting no-look passes and behind-the-back dishes much like their idol, the legendary Pete Maravich.
And although they were building a lasting friendship, they knew that their time together as teammates was short because Barry was a free agent this summer and Ridnour was tabbed as his replacement.
“It never got weird or strange or anything like that,” said Ridnour, who faces Barry and the San Antonio Spurs tonight at the SBC Center. “Brent wouldn’t let that happen. He was a big part of my rookie year because he sort of took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of the road and all of that stuff off of the court.
Barry is giving the same lesson to his new team, but with fresh and unexpected material.
Touted as the three-point specialist who could complement Tim Duncan and return the Spurs back to the NBA Finals, he has shot mostly blanks during the exhibition season.
So far, the folks in San Antonio are laughing, but everyone expects better results once the regular season begins.
“I didn’t mind Brent missing shots, but he talked to Devin Brown about shooting at halftime and then Devin couldn’t make shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News after Thursday’s 97-95 overtime defeat to Philadelphia.
“It’s sort of like having a disease that spreads. You have to find the source. So I had to tell Brent not to talk to any of our players about shooting. Ever.”
Even Spurs guard Tony Parker playfully ripped Barry at a luncheon yesterday, when he introduced the new sharpshooter and said: “What is he, like 3 for 60 right now?”
Not quite, it just seems like it.
Actually, Barry, who started the previous game at shooting guard and is expected to play behind Manu Ginobili tonight, has converted 5 of 27 field goals and just 2 of 14 three-pointers for 16 total points.
His poor marksmanship might have something to do with San Antonio’s 0-3 start, but it doesn’t seem to be a major concern to the Spurs.
The Sonics, 1-4 in exhibitions, aren’t alarmed that Ridnour hasn’t scored more. He has missed all three of his treys, has made just 6 of 17 shots and is averaging 5.3 points.
“It’s hard to fill somebody like Brent’s shoes right away,” Ridnour said. “He was a big part of this organization. He’d been here awhile. So for me, I just got to step up and make plays whenever I get them. And lead like he did.”
Last week, Barry’s wife, Erin, visited the Sonics while continuing her work for the non-profit charity Child Haven.
For a moment, it was as if nothing had changed. As if Barry would burst through the doors, sink another improbable jumper and spin another yarn that made him an endearing personality to Sonics fans.
But almost all signs that Barry spent the past five seasons in Seattle are gone. The No. 31 jersey that he wore and his KeyArena locker stall belong to rookie center Robert Swift.
And Ridnour now occupies his old point-guard position.
“I think it’s accurate to say that a lot of guys around here miss him,” Ridnour said. “I know I do. But that’s the NBA. That’s another thing Brent told me about this league. You play with guys one year and against them the next.”
F Rashard Lewis (plantar fasciitis, left foot) is with the team but is not expected to play tonight. G Ronald Murray (strained left quadriceps) remained in Seattle. Swift missed yesterday’s practice with an upper respiratory infection, and is questionable for tonight.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com