A season ago they were the top team in the Western Conference, making a trip to the NBA Finals, where they took the Chicago Bulls to six games before losing. But this season, the Seattle SuperSonics have struggled against the top teams -- and guard Gary Payton said changes are in order.
Payton had not spoken to the media all season until last week, when he talked about the problems with a Seattle reporter.
The thoughts of "The Glove" -- that the Sonics are several players away from being a real contender -- may be suggesting that the team needs to make a move by next week's trading deadline.
"We're getting killed on the boards," Payton said. "We need another rebounder, like an Otis Thorpe. And we need another [shooting] guard to help [Hersey Hawkins]. That's just my opinion."
Obviously, Payton doesn't believe former Washington Bullets center Jim McIlvaine (seven years, $35 million) is doing the job in the rebounding department.
Van Exel said he would give each member of the Sonics a gift (up to $100) if Seattle wins the division.
"Nick can't guard me, one-on-one, both ways," Payton said. "But going at him, one-on-one, is not within the team concept. It's not about me and him. I'm not going to get into that.
"Here's how I'll retaliate," Payton added. "I'll double that bet for him. He's putting up $100 a player. I'll make it $200. For him to call us out like that, it should motivate everybody."
Payton does not like the way the Sonics have been playing.
"We've had chances to beat a lot of good teams, but we haven't," Payton said. "It's frustrating that we haven't beaten good teams. I'm not trying to put my team down. But we have to step up at some point."
The Sonics play the Lakers tomorrow.
When Dennis Rodman returned Tuesday from his 11-game suspension, his father, Philander Rodman, was in the stands at the United Center. Rodman has not seen his father in 27 years.
The elder Rodman, who lives in the Philippines, was flown to Chicago by the TV show "Extra," which was hoping to air a Rodman family reunion.
It didn't work.
"He hasn't been part of my life up to now," Rodman said. "As far as I'm concerned, he's just my biological daddy, but not my real daddy. I ain't got nothing to say to him."
He's not their choice
The Knicks' Patrick Ewing: "He's the GM in Dallas? So you know if I'm going anywhere, it's not there."
The Kings' Mitch Richmond: "They didn't call me to endorse the deal? Gee, I can't believe that. He does know talent. I just hope he doesn't give it all away."
The Warriors' Latrell Sprewell: "He's not a people person, as far as relating to guys and helping them to understand what he wants you to understand. He just dumps on you. But he's not in a position to do that now. He's a GM."
Around the league
Chris Mullin has asked for a trade from Golden State, preferably to a contending team. Five teams -- the Atlanta Hawks, Lakers, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Bulls -- reportedly have inquired about Mullin. The trading deadline is Thursday.
Line of the week: Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson had a triple double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists) in the first half of Wednesday's game against Boston. He finished the game with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists.
Charles Barkley, who has aspirations of a political career when his playing days are over, had this to say about Ebonics: "What good is Ebonics going to do when you walk into the offices at IBM and try to get a job? It's like some of us have the idea that it's some kind of selling out to become educated. We have to stop this nonsense."
When Wilt Chamberlain was introduced with the NBA's top 50 players at the All-Star Game, he was wearing a Lakers jacket, and not the jacket of the Philadelphia 76ers. "Can you imagine that?" he said. "I didn't pick it "
Quote of the Week
From Chamberlain, when asked about teams signing aging big men -- like 38-year-old Alton Lister of the Boston Celtics: "Alton Lister I mean, they are bringing these guys out of retirement to play center, and some of these guys weren't even that good in the first place."
Jerry Bembry can be reached via the Internet at Jeryol.com.
Pub Date: 2/14/97