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Originally published November 28, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 28, 2006 at 10:54 AM

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Now, Hill offers to take the blame for Sonics

Another day in SonicsLand and somebody else plays the role of the martyr and falls on his sword. Sunday it was Earl Watson, and Monday it...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Another day in SonicsLand and somebody else plays the role of the martyr and falls on his sword.

Sunday it was Earl Watson, and Monday it was coach Bob Hill.

"Every time the team struggles, it's always the coach's fault," Hill said. "I understand that. Whoever the coach is, it's his fault. He's not doing this or he's not doing that. Then when you're winning, it's the players. I understand that. But it's [crap]. It's [crap].

"This is a player's league and they have to be held accountable for their play. I'm not going to leave a guy out there who's struggling, and we're trying to win games and we're losing, so he can maybe find his shot. That's his job. This is professional sports. It's not the role of the coach to threaten him to play. But blame it on me. That's fine. I have no trouble with it. Blame it all on me and protect them."

Hill's statements were tongue-in-cheek, meant to show just how out of whack the NBA's star system has become, and an indication just how out of sync Hill is with two of his top reserves, Damien Wilkins and Watson.

Nonetheless, their public feud has turned into a daily "he-said-what?" affair that makes for good stories, but fails to address the real reasons why the Sonics are tied with Portland for 13th in the Western Conference at 6-9.


Orlando @ Seattle, 7 p.m., FSN

In a search for simple answers to explain the 98-78 defeat to San Antonio, Hill threw the reserves under the bus, and Watson and Wilkins responded by strongly criticizing their coach's substitution patterns and offensive schemes.

A restless night of sleep and a voluntary practice Monday in which the reserves held spirited four-on-four scrimmages didn't soothe hurt feelings.

"I don't know that we got guys that have the history in pro sports to be doing that," Hill said of Watson's and Wilkins' complaints. "If I was cutting Rashard [Lewis'] minutes, he's got every right to complain. But to cut a guy's minutes who hasn't been in the league that long, and then you criticize me in the papers, I think that's a copout."

At times. Hill was playful and ornery as he talked about the corrosive elements that seem to be sabotaging his efforts. When a public relations staffer attempted to end the interview after 15 or so minutes, Hill waved him off.

"No, it's OK. I like talking to these guys," he said.

For more than 30 minutes, Hill gave a laundry list of Seattle's problems. He would like to move Johan Petro to the second unit, but is unable to because of the lack of dependable centers. He thinks Ray Allen is tired. He can't explain why Chris Wilcox and Petro aren't taking advantage of Lewis' double-teams in the post. He hopes the Sonics are hovering around .500 on Jan. 1 and believes they'll be "really, really good" next season.

When the subject switched to Wilkins, Hill admitted he's considered benching the disgruntled swingman in favor of rookie Mickael Gelabale, who the coach believes will mature into a solid NBA player.

Coincidently, before Hill could explain why he hasn't made the move to Gelabale, Wilkins, dressed in street clothes, walked out of the weight room and stepped on the practice floor. He had a meeting with the Sonics coach, and Hill asked him to wait in his office.

Wilkins complied, although he didn't look happy. "You see, he's pouting today," Hill said. "He's pouting. How can you do that? He's got a nice life."

Sunday, Wilkins' frustrations boiled over after he flushed a reverse dunk over Tim Duncan, which brought the listless KeyArena fans to their feet and seemed to elevate Wilkins' spirits. Ten seconds later, however, he was replaced by Lewis, who had been waiting at the scorer's table.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or

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