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Supersonics Put Spotlight On Draftees

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

James Cotton smiled a lot. Eddie Elisma spoke with optimism. And Mark Blount showed he can be a bit bashful in the spotlight.

If Tuesday seemed like a simple day for the Seattle SuperSonics’ three second-round draft picks, that’s because it was. They were introduced in what they hope is their new home with an overwhelmingly clean slate - perhaps even recognized as members of the have-nots.

No contracts.

No assurances.

No expectations.

About the only certainty with Cotton, Elisma and Blount is their personality, though none of them appeared discouraged that the Sonics and draft picks usually mix about as well as mud and mustard.

“It’s a challenge,” said Elisma, a 6-foot-9 forward the Sonics took 41st overall. Elisma even caught wind of Sonics coach George Karl’s statement on draft day: “I like some of these guys. (But) I’m not saying I’m going to play them.”

“In a way, I’m glad he said that,” Elisma said. “Now, you have to come out and show them that you belong.”

Actually, if an oddsmaker surveyed their chances of making the Sonics’ roster, Cotton probably is the one to bet on. Elisma has an outside shot, and Blount was deemed a “project” from Day One.

“Whatever happens, you’re going to have good days and bad ones,” the 6-foot-5 versatile Cotton said as the trio prepares for rookie camp this week.

“You always have to be confident that you can play in this league,” he said.

Fulfilling the Sonics’ needs is another story.

Elisma (Georgia Tech) is a wiry 213 pounds and lacks the bulk to rebound and score inside. Blount, a 7-foot, 230-pounder chosen 55th overall, fits a similar description. Blount left University of Pittsburgh after two years in a move he called “strictly financial.”

Both are likely to end up playing in Europe or perhaps with another NBA team. The Sonics’ preference seems to be adding big bodies through free agency. They would like to re-sign backup power forward Terry Cummings and add another veteran presence in the paint.

“I don’t think any of us know why they drafted us,” said Elisma, adding he was encouraged the Sonics still have four roster spots to fill. “I’m just going to work hard and try to do my best to make the team.”

Sonics president Wally Walker said Elisma, Blount and Cotton will be evaluated after their performances at the NBA summer leagues.

Cotton got a head start when he spent some time in Las Vegas last month. Cotton worked out with Sonics assistant coach Tim Grgurich, Sonics free agent Eric Snow and former Sonic Vincent Askew.

“They pushed me around. But I learned a whole lot in two days,” Cotton said.

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