- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

Ray Allen measures the question about his contract year like a jump shot.

The 6-foot-5 Seattle SuperSonics guard waits patiently, thoughtfully, then finds an opening and shoots: “When this season started, I could have said: ‘If I don’t have a contract, I’m not coming back,’” Allen says before a 103-97 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.

“That sounds crazy, because I still have a contract. This is what I signed six years ago, and I owe it to my teammates and this organization to honor that. It’s all about being professional. That contract will take care of itself.”

It’s that refreshingly professional attitude of solving the problem in front of you that has helped give the surprising Sonics (22-6) the league’s second-best record.

In a season when so many so-called franchise players have pouted and held their breath until their trade demands were answered, Allen has quietly done his job: 23.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a shooter’s touch in the locker room.

He Got Game. And character, too.

“He is a great leader,” sixth man Vladimir Radmanovic says. “Once he came to this team, everything changed. Gary [Payton] was a great player, but he didn’t have that charisma that Ray has.

“It’s not only about, ‘OK, I’m going to do my thing, score my points, play my game, and I don’t care what’s going to happen.’ He’s trying to get everybody involved.”

All of the Sonics are involved in the team’s European-style spread offense, which relies heavily on 3-pointers and drives to the basket.

Seattle averages 25.9 points from 3-point range and 21.5 points from the free throw line — a product of their drives.

The system works without a dominant post player because of the Sonics’ perimeter players. Allen, Radmanovic, Rashard Lewis and point guards Luke Ridnour and Antonio Daniels can all pass and shoot.

“Everyone is flourishing in this style of play,” Allen says. “We have to put the ball up. We know what we have and we can do. More importantly, we know what we can’t do.”

What the Sonics can’t do is rely on their post play. Instead, Seattle employs a trio of dirty work players: Danny Fortson, Reggie Evans and Nick Collison, who average a combined 18.5 rebounds.

The Sonics have been subject to all of the traditional criticisms of perimeter teams. They are a fluke. They can’t go deep in the grind-it-out playoffs.

Allen is ready with a parting shot: “Do you think the Chicago Bulls teams with Michael Jordan were perimeter oriented?”

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