The Seattle Supersonics returned largely the same lineup for the start of the 2002-03 season despite trading Vin Baker to Boston in a five-player trade over the summer. Because of the familiarity, the team started the season hot, running up an 8-2 record. Four losses by a total of seven points in late December turned Seattle Supersonics momentum for the worse.
By the trade deadline, the Seattle Supersonics were 22-30 and seemingly out of the playoff chase. As a result, Seattle Supersonics management made a bold move on the deadline, trading Gary Payton and promising youngster Desmond Mason to Milwaukee for All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Ronald Murray and a conditional first-round draft pick.
The move was an emotional one after Payton's 12 and a half seasons with the Seattle Supersonics, but a new-look lineup led by Allen quickly won fans over. With Brent Barry sliding to point guard to make room for Allen, the Seattle Supersonics took off, going 18-12 in their final 30 games of the season to get back into playoff contention. Ultimately, they were eliminated on the season's final weekend, finishing with a record of 40-42.
During his 29 games in Seattle, Allen averaged 24.5 ppg, 5.9 apg and 5.6 rpg, all career highs. He was named to the 2004 USA Olympic team during the season. Rashard Lewis also blossomed with more shot opportunities, upping his scoring average to 18.1 ppg. Undrafted rookie forward Reggie Evans became only the second Seattle Supersonics rookie to start on opening night in a decade and led the team with 6.6 rpg.