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Wednesday, August 11, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sonics Sign L.A.'S `Kobe Stopper' -- Patterson, 24, Agrees To Three-Year Contract

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

You've probably never heard of the newest Sonic.

But Laker sensation Kobe Bryant knows him well.

Ruben Patterson, a seldom-used rookie last season, was nicknamed "the Kobe Stopper" because of his wallpaper defense during Los Angeles Laker practices.

"Honestly, I dominated Kobe and everybody," said Patterson, a 6-foot-6 swingman who signed a three-year contract with the Sonics yesterday. "I went out there and I busted my butt, and everybody knows it.

"They called me `the Kobe Stopper.' He hated when I guarded him, and he knows it to this day."

Cocky kid.

So why isn't Patterson, 24, a household name?

Playing behind Bryant and Rick Fox for most of last season, Patterson averaged only six minutes per game. And after the Lakers traded for All-Star Glen Rice, Patterson found his exploits limited to practices.

"Politics," said Patterson, who averaged 2.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 24 games. "You have Kobe, $70 million - you know they are going to play him. Then you have Glen Rice, who's been in the league awhile. Then you've got Rick Fox. I was just a rookie."

During the offseason, Boston Celtic Coach Rick Pitino pushed hard to sign Patterson, who turned down several teams. But Patterson said he wanted to stay on the West Coast, particularly if he could play with Gary Payton.

"He's wonderful," Patterson said. "I'm going to be the next `Glove,' because he's getting up in age now. He can't move like he used to."

Patterson played on the Sonic summer league team in Boston, where he displayed his high energy and tough defense.

An athletic slasher, Patterson should benefit from the new NBA rules that cut down on contact. He played two seasons at the University of Cincinnati after transferring from a junior college in Kansas.

"We've had our eye on him for a long time," Sonic Coach Paul Westphal said.

In the 1998 draft, the Sonics considered selecting Patterson with their first-round pick. Instead, they chose Vladimir Stepania with the 27th pick overall.

The Sonics intended to take Patterson with the 32nd pick, but the Lakers chose him one spot earlier.

The Sonics might not be an elite team next season, but with Payton, Vernon Maxwell and now Patterson, Seattle will be one of the most (trash) talkative.

"I talk and I play hard," Patterson said.

After the Sonics signed Maxwell, small forward was their most glaring need. If they aren't able to land a starter, then Patterson could be Detlef Schrempf's replacement.

"I know I'm going to play," Patterson said. "And I'm going to earn it because I'm going to show the world what I can do."

But according to sources, the Sonics are expected to trade Hersey Hawkins today or tomorrow for a small forward or athletic swingman. The Sonics have a few trade scenarios on the table, and they are expected to pull the trigger on one of them. (One possibility is Cedric Ceballos coming from the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal.)

The Sonics now have nine players, not including Vin Baker. He is expected to sign by the end of the week. They still need a back-up point guard and big man.

But at least they have their "Kobe Stopper."

Yesterday, Patterson circled Nov. 30 on his Sonic schedule, because that's the first game the Sonics play against the Lakers next season.

"I can't wait" he said. "I'm going to tell G.P., Vin Baker, all those guys, `That game, I'm all out. Because I just want to beat (Bryant) so bad.' I told him personally: `If I'm ever on another team, I'm going to go against you, and I'm going to kill you.' Exact words.

"But Kobe is a good player. I'm not going to knock him."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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