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Warriors’ Kevin Durant argues for Sonics’ return to Seattle

Warriors' Kevin Durant argues for Sonics' return to Seattle

Kevin Durant waved to the followers. He clapped his arms. He then motioned them to chant louder.

“Save Our Sonics!!!” a sell-out crowd pleaded. “Save Our Sonics!!”

Durant simply completed what he thought-about his most memorable recreation of his NBA rookie season. The explanations went past delaying the Dallas Mavericks’ hope to clinch a playoff spot. Even when Durant didn’t comprehend it definitively on the time, the sport on April 13, 2008 additionally marked the final time the Seattle Sonics would play at Key Area earlier than relocating to Oklahoma Metropolis. And over a decade later, Durant remembered vividly the phrases and chants that crammed his eardrums.

“It was indescribable man,” Durant recalled with a small group of reporters. “I can’t put into words the energy of the building and the amount of love. The support that was in the building was incredible.”

Durant may expertise one thing comparable when the Warriors (Zero-1) and Sacramento Kings (Zero-Zero) play a preseason recreation on Friday at Key Area. It’d spark nice reminders of Durant’s lone season in Seattle (2007-08) that led to profitable the NBA’s Rookie of the Yr award. It’d yield frustration over the Sonics franchise altering its location (Oklahoma Metropolis) and identify (Thunder) amid the workforce’s possession group and native officers disagreeing over the price and skill both to renovate or construct a brand new area. And it may additionally present hope that Seattle will area an NBA workforce sometime.

All of which captures a memorable albeit short-lived legacy that Durant left in Seattle.

“People are probably looking at him as a shooting star,” stated Rick Welts, the Warriors president and chief working officer.  “He’s here for a minute, and gone. But that minute was incredible with his rookie of the year season. The franchise seemed to be on an amazing trajectory at that point.”

Welts’ phrases carries perspective contemplating his Corridor-of-Fame profession consists of ties to the Sonics franchise as a former ballboy and public relations official. That additionally explains why Welts turned instrumental in establishing a Warriors’ pre-season recreation in Seattle ever since Durant joined the Warriors as a free agent in 2016. Welts reasoned, “I thought it would be a neat thing to be able to do, not only for [Durant] but for the city.”

Amid that backdrop, Durant may need to convey a pair of earplugs. As Durant predicted, “the energy is going to be amazing in the building.” The Seattle sports activities market lately loved the NFL’s Seahawks profitable the Tremendous Bowl (2014) and the WNBA’s Storm profitable a championship (2010, 2018). So why can’t the Sonics full the trifecta?

“The Seahawks had some success. Now the Storm had some success. But everybody in the basketball world and the NBA knows the Sonics need to be back in Seattle,” Durant stated. “I’m looking forward to going out there and playing. Hopefully we give them a show.”

The Sonics had hoped Durant might present greater than only a present.

After ending with the NBA’s fifth worst report within the 2006-07 season (31-51), the Seattle Sonics had roughly the identical odds in touchdown the No. 2 decide (9.65 %) equal to Warriors guard Stephen Curry lacking a free throw (9.7 %). Subsequently, Durant figured he would play for the Boston Celtics (24-58) or Atlanta Hawks (30-52), which boasted the NBA’s worst data that season and had one of the best possibilities in touchdown a prime decide.

As quickly because the sudden occurred in the course of the NBA draft lottery on Might 22, 2007, former Sonics vice chairman and president of basketball operations Lenny Wilkens sat on the dais and projected what awaited.

“I knew that would yield us Kevin Durant,” Wilkens recalled after he starred for one season on the College of Texas. “I knew who Portland was taking. I felt we were getting the best player.”

Wilkens didn’t simply sense that transfer would ultimately lead to the Sonics’ first NBA championship since teaching them to their lone title in 1979. It will strain each the Sonics to maintain the franchise in Seattle and persuade the town to help constructing a brand new area. Former Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo, who coached the Sonics for their ultimate season in 2007-08, remembered College of Texas coach Rick Barnes telling him that Durant “is as good as you think and even better; he’s a good player and even better person.”

Wilkens predicted appropriately that the Blazers would use their No. 1 decide to choose Greg Oden, whose brief and injury-riddled profession (2007-12, 2013-14) starkly contrasted Durant’s path. He has gained two NBA championships and two Finals MVP awards up to now two seasons within the Warriors. He additionally spent the previous 10 seasons climbing to No. 36 on the NBA’s all-time scoring listing (20,913 factors).

“This is a guy who could come in and play three positions right away. I thought the future was wonderful,” Wilkens stated. “I just knew that kind of talent was going to be outstanding for Seattle.”

Wilkens was not as clairvoyant concerning the Sonics’ franchise, although. He acquired sufficient alerts about their plans to transfer that he resigned in protest on July 6, 2007. Lower than a yr later, Sonics new proprietor Clay Bennett introduced the workforce would relocate to Oklahoma Metropolis. Since then, Durant continuously performs the “what if” recreation on how his NBA profession would have turned out had the Sonics franchise stayed in Seattle.

“I knew for sure the energy would’ve been crazy about making our first playoffs like we did in OKC and guys getting MVP’s,” stated Durant, referring to the Thunder’s eight playoff appearances (2010-2018) in addition to MVP awards for Durant (2013-14) and Russell Westbrook (2016-17). “I try to think about that sometimes. It would’ve been really really cool in Seattle sports for all of those teams to be doing well.”

Maybe Durant would have remained tied with a franchise that already had a wealthy historical past with luminaries, together with Wilkens, Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, Spencer Haywood, Nate McMillan, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.

“I don’t know why it would’ve been any different with the success they had at OKC,” Welts stated. “It’s the same group, ownership and GM. You would expect they would have the same trajectory.”

Then once more…..

“I think he’d still be in Seatlle, frankly. He enjoyed Seattle,” Carlesimo stated.  “They would’ve been more likely able to attract a free agent. People would’ve wanted to stay in Seattle. It’s a great place to play. But I really enjoyed Oklahoma City when I was there. He would’ve only been in a different building and wearing green and gold. It certainly wouldn’t be any less. But I think maybe they would’ve won a championship by now and he would still be in Seattle. But that’s just my opinion.”
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, OCT. 27-28 ** Seattle SuperSonics head coach P.J. Carlemiso, proper, talks to rookie Kevin Durant throughout a time-out in an NBA exhibition basketball recreation Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007 at KeyArena in Seattle. Newly employed by the Sonics, Carlesimo is again as a head coach, his activity now being the event of Durant and making an attempt to revitalize a once-proud franchise rife with questions on its off-court future. (AP Photograph/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren/Related Press

In contrast to Wilkens, Durant and Carlesimo didn’t sense the Sonics’ deliberate relocation as imminent. Shortly after the Sonics drafted him on June 26, 2007, Durant and Carlesimo believed the franchise would keep in Seattle for at the least one other three years. It will definitely turned a moot level after the Thunder franchise fired Carlesimo within the 2008-09 season following a 1-12 begin. However when he interviewed initially for the job, Carlesimo particularly requested and was given the impression the workforce wouldn’t relocate after one season.

Subsequently, Durant shortly made himself snug in a metropolis he by no means visited till working on the market shortly earlier than the NBA Draft. He immediately discovered Seattle welcoming after spending his childhood in Prince George County, Maryland and his lone yr in school on the College of Texas.

“It was really chill for it being a big city,” Durant stated. “I thought it would be faster. But once I got out there, it was smooth sailing.”

Durant’s mom, Wanda, moved out together with her teenage son to give him firm, assist round the home and ease the transition into the NBA. Durant’s former agent, Aaron Goodwin, was based mostly in Seattle, which additional helped Durant set up himself as one of many league’s most marketable gamers that cemented himself a league business.

Former NBA participant Spencer Hawes, Durant’s greatest pal on the highschool basketball circuit, lived in Seattle and shortly turned shut buddies together with his household. The Sonics had additionally traded star Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics for a fifth general decide that was used on Jeff Inexperienced, who grew up with Durant in PG County. And Durant turned associates with Seattle’s NBA home-grown expertise, together with Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson. Although he principally remained a homebody, Durant loved native eateries, akin to Junior’s and Dicks.

“I kind of felt like I was a part of that group with those guys,” Durant stated. “Just hooping with them every day and being around them and that community. It was deeper than just me playing for the Sonics. I had a little family there as well.”

So, Durant shortly bought a house in Mercer Island as a result of “I was settling down there.”

“That drive across the bridge was always beautiful,” Durant recalled. “It was rainy a lot, but you could see the water. Then in the spring time, you could see the mountains as well.”

Durant didn’t precisely expertise nice environment with the group. The Sonics had a 31-51 report, removed from the success Durant skilled when the Longhorns superior to the second spherical of the 2007 NCAA event.

“It’s hard enough for a rookie. It’s much harder on a team when you’re the best player,” Carlesimo stated. “I’ll say arguably to be open minded about it, but he’s the best player on the team. When it’s not a good team and you’re a rookie, it accentuates that learning curve so much. It’s hard enough for a rookie to come onto an established team with proven veterans and a winning record where they don’t have to carry the load.”

But, Durant nonetheless lived up to his trajectory after turning into the primary freshman to win the Nationwide Participant of the Yr award. After Durant scored 27 factors in solely his second NBA recreation towards Phoenix, Suns defensive standout Shawn Marion gushed to about Durant’s potential. Steve Kerr, the previous Suns common supervisor and present Warriors coach, heard the commentary.

“‘That guy is going to be a problem once he grows into that body,’” Kerr recalled Marion saying about Durant. “You could see it right away.”

Durant averaged 20.three factors, four.four rebounds and a couple of.four assists, turning into the third teenager in NBA historical past to common no less than 20 factors. In what he thought-about “the best game his rookie season,” Durant scored 37 factors and helped the Sonics to a double extra time win towards a Denver Nuggets workforce that featured Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and J.R. Smith. In his rookie finale, Durant posted a earlier career-high 42 factors on 18-of-25 capturing, 13 rebounds and 6 assists towards Golden State, joking “that’s when I started loving Oracle.”

Via the robust losses and superb particular person play, Durant relished Key Area’s intimate surroundings.

“It was very small. But when they packed in there, the crowd was incredible,” Durant stated. “From wall to wall, you can hear it.”
Seattle SuperSonics’ Kevin Durant has the ball knocked unfastened by Golden State Warriors’ Al Harrington in the course of the first quarter of an NBA basketball recreation in Seattle, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. (AP Photograph/John Froschauer) 

Even with the followers yelling “Save Our Sonics” within the staff’s home-finale, Durant didn’t sense that undoubtedly marked the final time he would play in Seattle. Shortly earlier than the top of the 2007-08 season, Bennett addressed the group about its unsure future.

“We talked about where we might move to. That came up. But he didn’t tell us the timetable or anything,” Durant stated of Bennett. “We just knew it’s going to be a lot of noise around us moving and the franchise relocating. But we didn’t really know too much.”

It appeared the Sonics would keep contemplating Durant represented the workforce on the NBA draft lottery. The Sonics then used their No. four decide on Westbrook. However on July 2, 2008, Durant heard the staff’s plans to relocate whereas attending summer time courses on the College of Texas. On one hand, Durant stated he felt “excited” about shifting to Oklahoma Metropolis due to its proximity to Texas. Then again, he understood why the Sonics’ fanbase felt deserted.

“Just think about the people that come to those games that need that outlet for an hour or two. They just need to release for a little bit and enjoy the game,” Durant stated. “I kind of sympathize with the fans and just know that it’s tough not having basketball there, especially as a deeply-rooted basketball city.”

As simply because it turned for Durant to transfer to Seattle, it turned much more troublesome to depart. Actually.

“It was hard to sell. I regret actually buying that house,” stated Durant, whose home was bought in 2013. “I learned from it.”
FILE — Kevin Durant of the Seattle Supersonics shoots over the Golden State Warriors’ Monta Ellis, Baron Davis and Al Harrington in the course of the ultimate recreation of the season Wednesday, April 16, 2008, in Oakland, California. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space Information Group) 

Since then, Durant typically experiences reminders of his brief time in Seattle.

He has a “real big bin” of all of his Sonics gear that features jerseys, footwear and memorabilia. He expressed gratitude for Mitchell & Ness promoting classic Sonics jerseys. Each time he performs in Portland, Durant stated that Blazers followers typically inform him “you will always be a Sonic.”

Durant has skilled extra nostalgia on a handful of journeys to Seattle for promotional appearances, Crawford’s pro-am league and a courtroom refurbishing in 2016 to profit the town’s Boys and Women Membership. And with the Warriors’ plans to play subsequent season at Chase Middle in Mission Bay after spending the earlier 46 seasons at Oracle Area in Oakland, Durant has a newfound perspective on the Warriors’ last season in Oakland.

“Luckily we’re not moving to the middle of the country. We’re moving across the bridge for a 20-30 minute ride. Hopefully that is a little better for fans to take,” Durant stated. “I know it’s tough for us to move out of Oakland. But we just want to come out this season and let them know that even though we’re moving, we’re still going to be here in the Bay Area and still will be your team.”

The Seattle followers shouldn’t have such a luxurious. At the very least for one night time, although, Durant hopes he can replicate the nostalgia from his rookie season. Maybe then, followers will chant “Save Our Sonics” as soon as once more. Maybe then, Durant will encourage them to yell louder as soon as extra.

“It was very devastating how we up and left in the middle of the night,” Durant stated. “Those fans have been yearning for basketball for a long, long time. Even though it’s just a preseason game and it’s one game, hopefully we can give them a nice little show.”

Comply with Bay Space Information Group Warriors beat author Mark Medina on Twitter, Fb and Instagram.

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