Archive for Friday, October 19, 2007

Sonics’ Collison battling for minutes

Former Kansas University forward trying to impress new Seattle coach Carlesimo during preseason

October 19, 2007


— Both probably deserve starter's minutes, but one might be the odd man out when the regular season begins.

Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison are embroiled in a heated competition for playing time at the power forward spot for the Seattle SuperSonics.

Last season, with the Sonics' options limited at center, former Kansas University standout Collison earned the starting role and the two played well together.

After finishing with 29 points and 21 rebounds against Phoenix in January, Collison, at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, grabbed the starting center role. He finished with nine double-doubles and averaged a career-high 9.6 points and 8.1 rebounds, starting 56 games.

But this season, with 7-footer Robert Swift returning from knee surgery and young big men Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene competing for the starting center spot, Collison might have to get his minutes at another position.

The Sonics prefer a bigger body who provides more of a defensive presence inside.

"My preference would be to play a lot," Collison said. "Whether it's coming off the bench or starting, it doesn't matter. But we all want to play a lot. We have to earn those minutes. But it's a lot easier to play well when you're getting consistent minutes."

Wilcox seems to have elevated his game from last season. He started 81 games, averaging 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds a contest.

New coach P.J. Carlesimo's emphasis on defense and transition offense fits Wilcox's ability to run the floor and rebound. So far during the exhibition season he has looked comfortable, averaging 14.3 points and seven rebounds a game.

With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis gone, Seattle will look to Wilcox, a 6-10, 235-pounder, as a primary scoring option this season. That said, Wilcox knows Seattle's improvement on the defensive end will lead to more victories.

"We're going to have to focus on the defensive end," Wilcox said. "That's been our weakness in the last couple years because we always allow a lot of points.

"We can score the basketball, but we can't keep giving up 100 points a game. So I think now once we get our defensive stuff and our rotations down I think everything else is going to fall into place for us."

Carlesimo said Wilcox and Collison deserve consistent minutes, but he's unsure of the solution.

"It's been our best position," Carlesimo said. "It's a problem. There's not enough minutes there for the two of them unless we give one of them time at (center), and I don't want to do that initially.

"Nick and Chris have played very well and very consistently. And they're both going to be in the rotation, obviously. We just have to figure out how we get them more minutes."

Whatever happens, Collison said he plans to keep working hard during practice and games, and let others worry about how playing time will be allocated.

"I knew there was going to be more competition for minutes at (center)," Collison said.

"We'll see how it shakes out. I thought I did a good job last year at (center), but it's a new year, a new coach and you've got to earn it all over again."


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