Sonics to draft No. 2, Blazers No. 1
As NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver opened the envelopes and read the names of teams in reverse order of the Tuesday's draft lottery...
Seattle Times staff reporter
As NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver opened the envelopes and read the names of teams in reverse order of the Tuesday's draft lottery, anticipation began to rise inside of Sonics president Lenny Wilkens.
"With the eighth pick ... the seventh pick ... the fifth pick ... the fourth pick ... the third pick... ," Silver said.
Wilkens isn't a superstitious man, but at that moment he knew fortune was smiling on a franchise in desperate need of a little good luck.
"When they called No. 5, I knew we were in the top three, and if you're in the top three, you're in a good place," he said in a telephone interview from NBA Entertainment headquarters in Seacaucus, N.J.
Then came the words that will go a long way in deciding the team's next general manager, coach and could have an impact on the Sonics' push to gain public support for a new arena, which in turn would secure the team's future in the Puget Sound area.
"The second pick in this year's draft will go to the Seattle SuperSonics," Silver announced as Wilkens beamed and accepted a congratulatory handshake from Atlanta vice president Dominique Wilkins.
Seattle, which finished 31-51, had the NBA's fifth-worst record this season and was assigned 88 of 1,000 designated ping-pong balls. The Sonics had an 8.8 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 9.65 percent chance to get the No. 2 pick.
Atlanta began the day fourth in the lottery and improved to third. Memphis, the worst team at 22-60, had the best chance at winning the lottery at 25 percent, but fell to No. 4.
The dramatic turn of fortune gives the Sonics the No. 2 choice for the second time in franchise history. And it practically guarantees they will select Texas forward Kevin Durant in the June 28 draft even though the club intends to re-sign Rashard Lewis once, as expected, he becomes a free agent next month.
Wilkens said he would consider trading the pick but conceded, "It would have to be something awfully damn good."
Portland, which landed the No. 1 pick, will almost certainly select 7-foot Ohio State center Greg Oden.
"I had a chance to see him play a few times, and what I saw was he's a big guy that can handle the ball," Wilkens said of Durant. "He can go inside and outside. He can pass it. He'll run the floor."
Durant, 6-10 and 225 pounds, led Texas to a 25-10 record and became the first freshman in NCAA history to be the consensus National Player of the Year. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 points in 35 games. Durant also scored at least 30 points in 10 games, including a 37-point, 10-rebound performance against Kansas in the Big 12 title game.
"People talk about a weakness being his body and him being so thin, but he's only 19 years old," Wilkens said. "We're going to put him on a strength program much like we did Rashard, so I don't see that being a problem."
Though Durant will likely play small forward in the NBA, which is Lewis' position, Wilkens said he intends to retain Lewis, who is expected to void the final two years of his contract next month and become an unrestricted free agent.
"You can always put talent on the floor and figure out a way to make it work," Wilkens said. "The new coach will have a lot to say about that and how they play. Certainly, now we'll be looking at someone to take advantage of those things, someone that's offensive minded."
Wilkens, who hasn't spoken about the general-manager and coaching search in three weeks, confirmed Tuesday that he has begun formal interviews for GM, but declined to reveal the candidates.
League sources said Tuesday night that Phoenix vice president David Griffin and assistant coach Marc Iavoroni, who are considered the leading candidates for the GM and coaching job in Memphis, will consider the Sonics after the lottery shakeup. The Grizzlies entered the lottery in first place and fell to fourth.
"I'm pretty certain that we're going to hire the GM before we do anything else," Wilkens said. "We just want to be thorough. There have been formal talks, very good talks."
Having the No. 2 pick takes pressure off Wilkens to find a GM before the draft. The Suns have said they will not release employees under contract until after the draft, while San Antonio assistant GM Sam Presti, believed to be interested in the Seattle job, can't speak with teams until the Spurs are out of the playoffs.
Wilkens said the Sonics will begin individual workouts in Seattle after next week's pre-draft camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Within hours after the draft, phones in the downtown offices started ringing, and Durant-mania began to take root.
"We sold over 40 full-season tickets and we've taken another 20 orders on mini-packages, and that's within the first 90 minutes after the announcement," said Brian Byrnes, vice president of sales and marketing. "That's a very good start. We expect to have a terrific day [today]."
The Sonics launched an ad campaign Tuesday night called "Be Part of It." It doesn't mention Durant but alludes to his future with the team.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|High five: The Sonics' top-5 overall picks|
|The Sonics have had eight picks in their history that were among the top five overall. A look at those players:|
|Gary Payton||1990||2||Arguably greatest player in team history|
|Bob Kauffman||1968||3||Traded after 1 season, starred for Buffalo Braves|
|Lucius Allen||1968||3||10-year career, just one in Seattle|
|Tom Burleson||1974||3||7-2 center traded after three seasons|
|Mike Green||1973||4||85 games with Sonics after starting in ABA|
|Xavier McDaniel||1985||4||Starred for Sonics for more than 5 years|
|Danny Vranes||1981||5||Never averaged more than 8.4 points|
|Scottie Pippen||1987||5||Sure Hall of Famer sent to Bulls in draft-day deal|
Information in this article, originally published May 23, was corrected May 23. A previous version of this story contained an error. The Memphis Grizzlies had the best chance of winning the NBA draft lottery on May 22, not the second-best chance as originally reported in this story.
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