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Thursday, December 09, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Roster decisions loom after team returns home

By Jayda Evans
Seattle Times staff reporter

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SAN ANTONIO — As discussions spark about the return of guard Ronald Murray and forward Vitaly Potapenko from injury, the future of rookies Damien Wilkins and Mateen Cleaves grows uncertain.

Murray (strained left quadriceps) and Potapenko (broken finger) have started practice and could be activated for the Sonics' game against the Boston Celtics on Saturday at KeyArena.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan said he would prefer to keep the roster as is — and don't think the team's 16-3 record doesn't have a little to do with it. Along with winning, there's a camaraderie in the locker room. Cleaves and Wilkins also bring a gritty work ethic to practice.

"They've been good to us, and that is needed on a team," McMillan said. "It's become like a family atmosphere. I like having those guys around. And they're young. They bring that spirit. Some guys are too cool to get up out of their seats (to cheer during games)."

If Cleaves and Wilkins are cut, the Sonics would have the opportunity to re-sign them to 10-day contracts if they were needed later in the season. McMillan said he is going to discuss the roster moves with management after the team returns to Seattle.

No worries

Player of the game: Ray Allen scored 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. Allen, who played 43 minutes, also had two assists and two rebounds in the quarter.

Reserve of the game: The Sonics' bench outscored the Spurs' 41-19, but it was guard Antonio Daniels' three-pointer in the waning minutes that clenched the win for Seattle. Daniels finished with 14 points, four assists and one turnover.

Digits: The Spurs didn't have any turnovers in the first quarter, but they finished with 14.

Turning point: After the Spurs pulled behind 83-81 in the fourth quarter, the Sonics went on a 10-2 run, capitalizing on San Antonio's turnovers and missed shots to regain control of the game.

Next: At Dallas, 5:30 p.m. today, American Airlines Center.

A thought crossed McMillan's mind shortly before last night's game against the Spurs: The past three-day stint without a game was the longest break his team had had this season.

"(We're going) to see where we are," McMillan said of the back-to-back road trip that includes tonight's games against Dallas. "There are a number of different challenges here, and we'll see how bad we want it."

Droll model

Sonics guard Ray Allen is in a few ads pitching NBA products, and the All-Star with the sunbeam smile thinks he and his peers are fit for modeling, too. Before flashes of Sam Cassell or Andrei Kirilenko ruin the image, allow Allen to explain.

"I was going with the body. Clothes hang on us well," he said with a laugh. "I wasn't thinking about the face."

Allen, who has starred in two movies, has agents in Los Angeles keeping an eye on deals in the entertainment field.

"I always keep my eyes and ears open," he said. "Because it's a second career for me."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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