We suggested here a year ago that Seattle had become a basketball town, but it still doesn't mean that the NBA SuperSonics can claim a loyal fan base. According to a Ticketmaster rep reached three days before the Green Team's season opener, lots of tickets in virtually every price range for Wednesday, Nov. 2, hadn't found the wallets of potential fans.
Perhaps the region's so-called b-ball fanatics were waiting for a better game than Seattle vs. the Los Angeles Clippers. Or maybe this remains a baseball/football burg—baffling in that, after Houston appeared (briefly) in the recent World Series, Seattle is the only city with pro football and big-league baseball never to have sent a team to either the series or the Super Bowl.
Maybe the Sonics opener hasn't prompted preseason chatter because of the many questions facing these young defending Northwest Division champs. Concerns can be cited in what is perhaps the reverse order of importance:
1. Point guard: Luke Ridnour will start for a second year. Is he ready to ascend to elite status?
2. Ray Allen: The team's marquee guy stayed, but will he get many good looks at the bucket when the other clubs know he's the only reliable scoring threat?
3. Rashard Lewis: The other key offensive component had an all-star-team season last year, but it was with a winning Sonics club with perhaps better personnel than this one.
4. Reggie Evans: A fourth starter from last season. Will he give way at some point to the aggressive Nick Collison, a better shooter?
5. Center: The Sonics have trotted out about 28 feet worth of dubious goons. Of the four aspirants, a not-yet-20 French kid named Johan Petro might start the season, and another lean teen, Robert Swift, might finish. Sonics center-mentor Jack Sikma might be better than any of them.
6. Bench: Flip Murray can hit from the outside. Danny Fortson will still own the fouls-to-seconds-played ratio. Troubling during the team's 3-5 preseason campaign was the cold shooting of sixth-man savior Vladimir Radmanovic.
7. New coach: Bob Weiss does. He has to sweat not just questions 1 through 6 but the fact that division rival Denver finished the exhibition season 7-1. Weiss, replacing the popular Nate McMillan, also needs to deal with another popularity contest posed by that other local dribbling contingent—the University of Washington men's team, which has done more than the Sonics to advance the notion that this is a basketball town.