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Sunday, February 1, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sonics

Notebook: Sonics' low attendance hurting value of team

Seattle Times staff reporter

It was an hour before game time and the railing above the visitors' and home team's tunnel were lined three-deep with kids and adult autograph seekers. It's a sight Sonics principal owner Howard Schultz and president Wally Walker welcome as they circle KeyArena before taking their seats.

It just hasn't happened as often as the two would like.

Forbes magazine released its report on the worth of NBA franchises this week and the Sonics were valued at $196 million, ranking them 27th out of the league's 29 teams. The Los Angeles Lakers were the most-valued franchise at $447 million and New York ($401 million), Chicago ($356 million), Dallas ($338 million) and Philadelphia ($328 million) rounded out the top five.

The ranking should be of no surprise, however. The Sonics are tied for the fourth-worst attendance in the league (14,630). They averaged 15,541 in 41 games last season, with 10 sellouts. Last night's game against the Sacramento Kings was their fifth sellout this season.

Schultz bought the Sonics and Storm from The Ackerley Group for $200 million in early 2001. A new television contract with Fox Sports Net for 70 games next season will bring more value to the franchise and there's talk of building a new arena, but until then it's up to the players to generate more fan support, and money.

Not leaving ... yet

News that center Jerome James might opt out of the third year of his contract was news to him. Although saying it's too early to say anything definitive, his agent made the statement in yesterday's edition of the Tacoma News-Tribune.

"That's him talking, I haven't talked to him about that," James said. "But I am going to call him now. Maybe he knows something I don't, but I haven't thought about that honestly."

James is in the second season of his three-year, $15 million contract. The Sonics need contributions from the 7-foot-1 center, but haven't been getting much from him lately. He was removed from his starting role and is playing with less enthusiasm because of the change.

"I've tried to explain to all these guys the importance of a bench," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "But if you don't accept it, what more can you do?"

Misprint

The Sonics have a blooper in their season tickets. The team's game against San Antonio is listed for Tuesday when actually it's on Thursday. Call 206-283-DUNK with questions.

Super stories

There's no doubting which team McMillan is cheering for in today's Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.

"Carolina, of course," said McMillan, who was raised in Raleigh, N.C. "I don't know much about them. I've only seen them in the playoffs, but it would be nice to see the city (Charlotte) get a championship."

While McMillan hasn't had time to follow the NFL, he does have fond memories of his own playing days. He said he was a tight end/punt returner until quitting before high school.

"I was the man in football," McMillan said. "If I got (the football), you couldn't catch me. I was afraid to get hit."

Sonics guard Ray Allen raised a brow upon hearing that bit of information. Allen, a Connecticut alumnus who is rooting for the Patriots, played wide receiver until high school.

"I think we might have to put him in the Jerome James school of lying," Allen said of McMillan's statement. "We're going to have to see some tape or something before we believe that."

Saturday's game at a glance

Player of the game: While star Peja Stojakovic struggled with his shooting, Sacramento center Brad Miller filled the void. He finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds in 44 minutes. Stojakovic had a team-leading 29 points, 11 in the fourth.

Other player of the game: Sonics guard Antonio Daniels shined in place of the injured Brent Barry. Daniels finished with a career-high 30 points to go with 11 assists and seven rebounds. He shot 9 of 15 from the field, including 3 for 4 from three-point range. He also went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line.

Digits: The Sonics had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and only two in the second half. They finished with 15, accounting for 23 Sacramento points.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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