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Beat-up Sonics stagger toward the postseason

Fri., April 8, 2005, midnight

Antonio Daniels will miss at least two games with roughened cartilage in his left knee. Rashard Lewis won’t return from a bruised right foot until next week, at the earliest.

Vladimir Radmanovic, suffering from a stress fracture in his right leg that will probably sideline him the rest of the regular season, wore a walking boot while shooting baskets Thursday.

It’s that time of the year, all right. The injuries are piling up for the playoff-bound Seattle SuperSonics.

“Not good,” coach Nate McMillan said. “You just try to figure out a style of play. That’s the most difficult thing.”

Daniels was diagnosed with chondromalacia, a roughening of the cartilage in his knee. He felt it during warmups Tuesday in Sacramento and knew instantly something was wrong.

“I wanted to give it a shot. The explosiveness just wasn’t there,” said Daniels, a key reserve who’s averaging 11.2 points but lasted only 10 minutes against the Kings.

With Seattle one win from securing the Northwest Division title, Daniels won’t play today against the Los Angeles Lakers or Saturday in Denver. He’s rehabilitating his knee in the whirlpool and treating it with ice.

Other than that, he’ll take advantage or four days’ rest.

Besides Daniels and Lewis, who has missed the last five games, forward Danny Fortson has a sprained right shoulder and guard Luke Ridnour has a sore right foot. Both are expected to play this weekend.

Fortson, though, was held out of contact during Thursday’s practice. Lewis watched a scrimmage from the sideline. Radmanovic lofted set shots by himself on an adjacent court, indifferent to the bulky boot.

“Guys are really nicked up right now,” Daniels said. “Those are the tolls of an 82-game season. We’ve played almost every day since the All-Star break.”

McMillan faces a juggling act down the stretch. For the past two weeks, since the injuries to Radmanovic and Lewis, he’s been shuffling lineups, working combinations on both ends.

“Over half of our team plays a 4 or a 5 right now, and our strength has been on the perimeter,” McMillan said. “You have to come up with a style that will help these guys be productive, both offensively and defensively. That can be a little tough.”

The Sonics are on track for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but the injuries threaten to interfere with their efforts to establish rhythm for the postseason.

“You want it, but you can’t control that,” McMillan said. “We have injuries. We’ve been fortunate all season long to be injury-free, and now it’s hitting us. It’s hitting us hard.”

All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen doesn’t feel the situation has reached the alarm level yet. He noted that everyone is assured of returning in time for the playoffs except Radmanovic, who will be evaluated again within 10 days.

Besides, everybody is sore at this stage of the season.

“This time of year, this is how we gauge if a guy’s really hurt,” Allen said. “If you’re really hurt, you’ll be in a suit on the sidelines. If not, this is why you get paid the big bucks. Those nicks and bruises don’t bother you.”

On the courts

Nets 110, Knicks 98: Jason Kidd had 28 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 66th career triple-double, and New Jersey kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a win at East Rutherford, N.J., that sent New York to its season-high eighth straight loss.

Mavericks 104, Spurs 68: Host Dallas resoundingly avoided a season sweep by its division nemesis with a runway victory over San Antonio, which played without Tim Duncan.

Rockets 114, Lakers 100: Tracy McGrady had 27 points and seven assists, and Houston beat slumping Los Angeles. Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson watched the game from owner Jerry Buss’ luxury suite.


The Atlanta Hawks placed Al Harrington, their leading scorer and rebounder, on the injured list with tendinitis in his right knee. … Junior swingman Kelenna Azubuike, the University of Kentucky’s leading scorer this past season, said he has signed with an agent and will forego his final season of eligibility. … Georgetown forward Brandon Bowman, his team’s leading scorer, has declared for the draft but has not signed with an agent.


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