One of the biggest keys in the latest three-game winning streak has been the increased production from the Sonics bench. With the re-insertion of Reggie Evans into the starting lineup the Sonics bench has been stabilized with Danny Fortson, Damien Wilkins, Flip Murray and Vladimir Radmanovic all knowing where their minutes are going to come from on a consistent basis.
SonicsCentralâ€™s Brian Robinson had a chance to talk with Coach Weiss and a few of the key players in the newly resurgent bench. In the last three games the Sonics bench has increased their average scoring per game by only 3.5 points; however their field goal percentage has jumped dramatically. From a strictly observational standpoint the players have settled into a comfort zone while on the court.
When asked about match ups, Head Coach Bob Weiss said, â€œThe biggest thing is the performance of our guys. When they play well, it causes other teams to have to adjust to us. When guys are not performing it leads to us having to match up with what those teams are doing.â€
This is simple commentary, but very telling of where this team is at. The general feeling as I see it is that when the team is playing well, they are a very tough team to guard on the offensive end. When the guys off the bench show up, our depth becomes a huge asset which most teams have a tough time overcoming.
One of the big early season questions had to do with subtle changes to Damien Wilkins' game. When asked if he was consciously attempting to do anything different from last year he replied, â€œI wouldnâ€™t say I was trying to change anything, I was just really uncomfortable with everything, and I think our play as a team said that as well.â€ Damien went on to say that â€œas a team we got away from a lot of the things we did well last year and it cost us a couple games.â€
When asked what has changed of late Wilkins said, â€œThe big thing is that as weâ€™ve gotten more comfortable as a team Iâ€™ve been able to go back to my strengths. I know I can defend, I know I can provide energy from the bench so thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been focusing on." While Lebron is a player who can't be shut down completely, Wilkins did a great job of directing where he was able to get shots off from for long stretches of Fridayâ€™s game. On Sunday against Indiana he came in and again played solid defense against both Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson while not forcing things on the other end of the court.
Flip Murray is another guy who has really stepped up over the last three games. After missing several games due to back spasms and not being in the rotation for a couple games heâ€™s returned to not only earn his rotation spot back but over the last two games has played prolonged minutes as a game finisher. When asked whether he felt that increased minutes or positioning on the court was the biggest key for him he replied, "I think itâ€™s both, getting the time, but also being in a situation with the ball in my hands in a spot where I can make things happen both for me and my teammates.â€
As has been discussed on this site many times, the need for consistency is a key component in being an effective unit. Over the last three games the bench guys have shown that they have the ability to work together and make things happen out there. The coaching staff seems to have finally gotten a rotation that theyâ€™re going to stick with and the players have reacted. Tonight theyâ€™ll get another opportunity to go out and have fun.