After arriving in town early this morning Bob Hill led his squad through their first home practice today and then settled in for his inaugural session with the home media. While the media was disappointed that we did not get to see an open scrimmage we were treated to an extremely candid conversation by Coach Hill which centered upon his expectations to date, the rotation and roles of his players, and his own role on the team.
If nothing else give the coach credit for being open and direct. He does not pull punches or talk around sensitive subjects. Whether it was a spirited defense of Pete Rose or his declaration that Vladi Radmanovic is â€œnot a great practice player, but a good practice playerâ€ he seems to simply say what he feels and not care much about the consequences. It was extremely refreshing.
Hill addressed this issue of changes both offensively and defensively and advised that it is extremely difficult to implement these changes on the road.
â€œWeâ€™ve changed a lot of things defensively and there has to be a grace period.â€ He said, later adding that he had not determined how long that grace period should be but that he had set aside 10 games in an earlier mid-season coaching assignment with the Pacers.
Overall he has positive impressions about the changes to date. He made it clear that he has â€œworked the playerâ€™s butts offâ€ and that fatigue may have been a factor in the teamâ€™s losses.
â€œI was as tired as Iâ€™ve ever beenâ€ he explained describing last nightâ€™s game against Philadelphia.
Hill advised that he is still experimenting with his rotation but that once he established them he believes that consistency is a key.
â€œIâ€™m still not close to finding the rotation. I rotate by minutes. This guy starts the game and plays so many minutes, then this guy goes in. They know when theyâ€™re going in. They know how long theyâ€™ll be there. They know if they play well theyâ€™ll play longer. They know if they play poorly they will play shorter. You have to create a system of accountability.â€ He said.
Clearly the rotation will feature Vladi Radmanovic as a starter. Like most members of the Sonics staff and management he is infatuated with the Physical skills and relative youth of the 6â€™10 PF.
â€œVladi is ready to be a starter. It was time for him to grow up and accept the responsibility of being a starter. Iâ€™ve always liked him as a player. Heâ€™s not a great practice player but heâ€™s a good practice player. He can do a lot for our defense once he completely understands it.â€
Furthermore both he and Coach Jack Sikma are extremely pleased by the play to date of youngsters Robert Swift and Johan Petro:
â€œIâ€™ve been around 7 footers my whole career. I know them pretty good. Sometimes theyâ€™ll wake up one morning and just get it, and that seems like what happened to Robert in NY. Last night we were on the plane coming back and I grabbed him and went over the tape and broke down his minutesâ€¦He didnâ€™t make any mistakes at all.â€ Hill said.
According to Hill there was no mandate by management that he increase the role of the two centers. He explained that both he and assistant Jack Sikma had worked closely with Petro and Swift and were confident in their abilities to contribute.
â€œI could see that they were at a point, they were ready to take what theyâ€™d done and put it under pressure.â€
â€œWe were right, they were both readyâ€ he proclaims â€œReady to play with a level of confidence.â€
â€œIâ€™m excited, really excited about both of them. I kick their buts really hard in the tape session and they took it.â€
In his final comments he addressed the role of forward Nick Collison bluntly. â€œNickâ€™s in a funk and Iâ€™m going to help him out of it.â€ Collison he felt sometimes tries too hard to be conscientious on the floor. He also may be given more plays to establish himself as a scorer with the backup unit.
â€œHe needs to relax and go out there and just play.â€ Hill said.
Players were for the most part unavailable do to the long road trip and extended practice. Most noticeably Nick Collison stayed on the floor for an extra half hour of jump shots and Reggie Evans stayed nearly a full hour working full speed half court shooting drills with Assistant Coach Dwight Daub. Big props to Reggie for working up a good sweat despite the long travel schedule.