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Monday, October 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Percy Allen
SAN DIEGO If Ray Allen were more succinct when answering questions, his friends say, then perhaps the Sonics guard might avoid uncomfortable confrontations like his one tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant.
But Allen is anything but succinct, and his comments after Seattle's only exhibition victory two weeks ago, in which he questioned Bryant's leadership, enraged Bryant to the point where he issued a somewhat amusing threat.
According to a Lakers team source, Bryant telephoned Allen days ago and told him, "I'm gonna bust your ass," in anticipation of their 7:30 p.m. exhibition at the San Diego Sports Arena.
After yesterday's practice, Allen denied receiving such a message from Bryant, and before last night's game against Phoenix in Las Vegas, the Lakers guard scoffed when asked about the rumor.
"Don't even put me and dude in the same breath," he told a reporter.
Their denials notwithstanding, an otherwise meaningless exhibition in a non-NBA city has suddenly been infused with a little bit of intrigue because of the budding rivalry between the stars.
"I hope he plays me hard," Allen said. "I would like to think that he's been doing that already because when I play against him, I go hard at him whether it was something that's been said in the newspaper or whatever.
"That mentality doesn't change. I know it doesn't for me, and I'm quite sure he feels the same. But if he's extra motivated then he should know that I don't care what goes on in L.A. I could(n't) care less. ... My focus is on this team right here."
Allen acknowledged that in their last meeting, Bryant knocked him in the jaw with what appeared to be an inadvertent elbow. They not only exchanged elbows but volleyed verbal jabs that ranged from playful barbs to ugly insults.
"That part of the game, the way guys go at each other, has changed from when I first got into the league," said Allen, who was selected in the 1996 draft along with Bryant. "There's always been trash talking, but man, it's gotten so personal now. And Kobe, he talks trash with the best of them."
The war of words is nothing new for Bryant, who is verbally feuding with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal. As for Allen, he has received threats of violence from former teammates Glenn Robinson and Tim Thomas.
"I've had guys talk about me as a basketball player, and I'm OK with that," Allen said. "Whether I should be an All-Star or not or just other things. ... So this latest thing with Kobe, well, that's just funny. You know what it is, it's childish."
Radmanovic given green light
Vladimir Radmanovic has connected on just two of his last 22 field-goal attempts, but coach Nate McMillan wants him to keep shooting.
"This is about opportunities," McMillan said. "If (Radmanovic) is missing, I'd rather him do it now, in the preseason, than later."
The Sonics coach said the same theory applies to rookie forward Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour, who are also struggling offensively.
C Vitaly Potapenko (left Achilles tendinitis) and Allen (sore lower back) did not practice yesterday. Potapenko is questionable for tonight's game and will be replaced in the starting lineup with Jerome James. The Sonics will also start Collison and Radmanovic at forward and Ridnour and Allen at guard.
None among Reggie Evans, Danny Fortson and Collison have claimed an edge in the battle for the power-forward position. Radmanovic isn't likely to start at power forward, but he'll be given minutes there this season, McMillan said.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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