George Karl has talked to his team about the NBA playoffs and about the questions he knows they'll be asked time and again about the coach's uncertain future in Seattle.
"It's not a distraction to me," Karl said. "I hope it's not a distraction to them."The Sonics (60-21) were 89-87 losers to San Antonio in their final home game Friday night.
Still, they can clinch their third straight Pacific Division title with a victory in Portland Sunday in their regular-season finale, giving them the No. 2 seed in the West behind Utah.
Next Friday night in Seattle, the SuperSonics open their playoff run - perhaps Karl's last with the team.
On July 1, Karl becomes a free agent who could sign with another team for a lot more money than the $3.2 million he's earned to coach the Sonics this season.
"I haven't talked to them and they haven't talked to me," Karl said of the Sonics. "Usually, when you don't talk to someone, it feels negative.
"But I've told the players that it's not important to talk about it. The worst thing for them to do is to get involved because every day in every city they're going to be asked about it. I don't want them to be de-energized."
Team president Wally Walker gets a lot of credit for Seattle's successful season. Walker traded disgruntled Shawn Kemp last September for All-Star forward Vin Baker.
In addition, Walker supplied Karl with free agents Dale Ellis, Jerome Kersey and Greg Anthony, veterans who helped the Sonics win 60 games for the third time in five seasons.
When the Sonics' season is over, Walker said he will talk with Karl, who coached the West in this season's All-Star game.