The Seattle rain hasn't been the only thing falling lately for Sonics fans.
These days, it's more like the sky. First, the team weathered a dismal season
at 31-51 last year, and then has been through an incredibly stormy
offseason fueled by demands for a new arena, lawsuits, arbitration, and more.
For the Sonics, the dry season can't come soon enough.
New chairman Clay Bennet's ownership group bought the Sonics and Seattle
Storm last year and has insisted that the teams need a new $500 million arena,
which the city has vehemently opposed. Blanket coverage of the demands and
speculation that the team could be moving to Oklahoma City or Las Vegas next
season has garnered so much attention that it has overshadowed what has also
been a very eventful summer in the Sonics' front office and locker room.
New GM and basketball wunderkind Sam Presti, who at a mere 30 years old
is one of the NBA's most respected and fastest rising executives, made bold
moves this summer in an effort to improve the team. A Rhodes scholar nominee
from Emerson College in Boston and a former assistant GM in San Antonio,
Presti led the design and implementation of the Spurs scouting database,
a system that is now being used by numerous teams throughout the NBA.
After netting the 2nd overall pick and basketball's player of the year in
University of Texas star Kevin Durant, Presti hired another "Texan" in former
Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo as the Sonics' new head coach. But
the new Seattle GM wasn't done there. He continued making waves in a blockbuster
deal that traded the face of the franchise in Ray Allen to Boston for Delonte
West, Wally Sczerbiak, and the No. 5 pick in the draft, Georgetown forward
Jeff Green. In addition, forward Rashard Lewis slipped away to Orlando via
free agency, though the Sonics did salvage a trade exception for him.
The Allen-Lewis tandem combined for 48.8 PPG and 11.1 RPG last season, leaving
a sizable hole for the Sonics to fill. But with Presti and Carlesimo emulating
a Spurs-like defensive philosophy, the SuperSonics hope that their mix of
young talent will at least partially fill the void.
With all the new faces among the players and coaching staff, Carlesimo told
sonics.com "it's almost like an expansion situation… There's going to be
a lot to the learning process -- us learning about the players, the players
learning about us and our system. It's just something we're going to have
to get through. It's clearly going to be a little more tedious this year
than you'd like it to be."
-- Jeff Brody
Luke Ridnour has the capacity to become a solid NBA player if he can show
some consistency. Averaging 11.0 PPG and 5.2 APG
last season, Ridnour could blossom under the tutelage of Carlesimo, who also
benefited Tony Parker's career. Wally Szcerbiak is a tough competitor who
can score in bursts with great three-point range. If he can stay healthy,
his offense could help take some of the load off of Kevin Durant.
The loss of Ray Allen is significant on the offensive end, and puts additional
pressure on a young team. As one of the Sonics' more experienced players, Earl
Watson will have to provide some quality leadership off the bench. Still, this
group is likely to struggle.
The Sonics lost Rashard Lewis and Danny Fortson, but gained Kevin Durant and
free agent Kurt Thomas from Phoenix. There will be incredible pressure on
Durant to live up to the hype surrounding his NBA career. For his part, Durant
is doing his best to manage expectations. "I don't think I'm a savior at all,"
he told the News-Tribune
. "I'm not the only one on the floor playing, you know."
Chris Wilcox has shown signs of brilliance and should see more touches in
the post this season. Nick Collison and rookie Jeff Green, the 5th overall
pick in this year's draft, have impressed many with their summer league play.
Seven-footer Robert Swift has been cleared for contact after a torn ACL kept
him out last season. But just like the backcourt, expect the big guys to go
through a huge learning curve.
-- Jeff Brody
Get to the Rose Garden via the Pick Six plan or any of several other ticket plans available.
Kevin Durant, who else? The Sonics' new face of the franchise has gone from
college superstar to a potential knight in shining armor. Seattle fans are
pinning their hopes on the silky smooth 6-9 forward, who should be the front-runner
for Rookie of the Year.
With the Sonics instituting a new defensive-oriented
system and adding several new faces, Durant has focused on developing a rapport
with his teammates and coaching staff. Still only 19 years old, Durant doesn't
want to carry the team. "I don't think it's all on me. I don't know why people
are saying, ‘Save the organization.' I want to be a team player. That's what
my game is all about," Durant told the News-Tribune. And with all the less-than-positive
news surrounding the Sonics lately, team is exactly what the Sonics want to
focus on as they enter training camp.
-- Jeff Brody
||Kevin Durant averaged 25.8 points per game for the University of Texas last season. He finished in double-digit scoring in every collegiate game he played.
Seventh season, First with Sonics
Three times, 3-9 (.250)
New Sonics head coach P.J. Carlesimo is no stranger to challenges. Still, the
situation in Seattle figures to be different. He inherits a team with five
new players and new faces in the front office. "Very seldom do you have a lot
of changeover and a lot of players coming in and out, coaches coming in and
out and all of a sudden things come together," he told sonics.com recently.
"When you look at the lack of continuity from
a coaching standpoint here combined with the fact that we've got five new players,
most of whom or all of whom figure into the mix; it's not that you have five
new guys," Carlesimo said. "Here's five new guys that somehow figure
into the plan. A couple of them are young, very young, you've got a brand new
coaching staff, you've got the Western Conference, you've got a lot of things
that probably are not real high on the list of the way I'd like to spend my
"It's going to be a challenge."
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR SONICS
Nick Collison's Iowa Falls team went 101-1 during his high school career, winning four state titles.
I love Kevin Durant. He would be my choice for Rookie of the Year going in. The biggest thing is he is almost 6-10 and he has a 7-5 reach and he has skills of a three-two. He can post up, he will rebound, block shots, he can run. He is a gym rat. Will he have a rocky year? He will definitely have a rocky year. He is only 19 years-old. He is going to be their man. He is going to have plenty of opportunity to shoot and score. I think he will end up having a good year.
I like Jeff Green, he is a nice player. But they could have a tough year. I would never say this to anyone but if I had to pick the worst team going in it would be them. I think Durant will have a good time there, especially because he is going to get all the shots he wants.
I like Luke Ridnour, but he has been in and out.
They have a new coach P.J. who will be a good coach there. But they are definitely in a rebuilding year.
Robert Swift who I like, is a young guy coming off a big injury. Sene is a great kid. He still has to prove to me that he is an NBA player.
It will be interesting to see how P.J. incorporates Szczerbiak, Jeff Green and Durant. It will be very interesting to see how he does that.
-- NBA Scout