Oden, Durant visits causing a commotion
Seemingly, Sonics general manager Sam Presti has the easiest job in the NBA leading up to next Thursday's draft. With the second pick in...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seemingly, Sonics general manager Sam Presti has the easiest job in the NBA leading up to next Thursday's draft.
With the second pick in what's billed as a two-man draft, Seattle has the luxury of choosing whichever player Portland doesn't select No. 1.
Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Simple, right?
So why all the fuss over meetings this weekend with the two stars?
Why is owner Clay Bennett flying to Seattle today to supervise the workouts?
Why the sense of excitement at the Furtado Center before Oden's visit and medical exam Saturday? Durant, who has been training in Seattle, will audition for the Sonics on Sunday and undergo a physical Monday.
In essence, the workouts will be the first chance many in the revamped Sonics front office have had to poke, probe and interview Oden, the 7-foot Ohio State center, and Durant, the high-scoring Texas forward.
Sonics front-office personnel saw the highly regarded pair work out at the NBA predraft camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., three weeks ago, but most of those employees have either been re-assigned or fired since Presti was hired June 7.
Vice chairman Lenny Wilkens was among those who traveled to Central Florida, but he was stripped of the president's title and has no basketball-related responsibilities. Dave Pendergraft, the team's director of basketball operations, also traveled to Florida, but was released this week, along with Steve Rosenberry, the director of college scouting.
Former assistant Jack Sikma has been hired by the Houston Rockets, and the futures of two assistants also at the camp — Ralph Lewis and Gordon Chiesa — are uncertain until the Sonics find a new coach.
Recently Presti has been overseeing workouts with assistant GM Rich Cho, and the Sonics appear on the verge of hiring Detroit's Scott Perry as director of basketball operations in what would be a lateral move.
It has been more than a month since the Sonics learned they parlayed the fifth-worst record into the No. 2 draft pick. Since then, officials have had to admire Oden and Durant from a distance while imagining what each could mean to the team.
Friday, those dreams come closer to reality when Oden walks into the training facility.
The Sonics expect to meet an affable 19-year-old who has been described as a cross between Shaquille O'Neal and Bill Russell. Oden shares O'Neal's quick wit and charm. He also draws comparisons to Russell on the court.
As a freshman last season, Oden averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and led the Buckeyes (35-4) to Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles despite recovering from right wrist surgery. He finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds as Ohio State lost to Florida in the NCAA title game.
Presti, a former San Antonio Spurs assistant GM, is more familiar with Durant after spending much of the past college season traveling to Big 12 games. He saw the Big 12 tournament final, during which Durant had 37 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six blocks in an 88-84 overtime defeat to Kansas.
Durant, who turns 19 on Sept. 29, is the only freshman to be the consensus NCAA player of the year. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.8 rebounds.
Bennett called drafting Oden or Durant "a profound change in the direction of this franchise."
Despite threats of moving, the prospect of taking Oden or Durant has pushed season-ticket sales ahead of last year's pace, according to Brian Byrnes, vice president of sales and marketing.
"This year's NBA draft is one of the most significant events in Sonics history," Byrnes said.
Then how important is this weekend?
A few NBA insiders believe an impressive workout and interview by Oden or Durant might prompt the Sonics to try to move up to No. 1 or broker a trade with Portland to secure the player they want.
Would the Sonics deal one of their point guards or agree to a sign-and-trade deal involving Rashard Lewis for either Oden or Durant? Or will they simply sit back and take whichever player Portland doesn't select?
Oden and Durant claim they don't care who is drafted first.
"We're both going to be in the NBA, right?" Oden said at the predraft camp. "One is nice, but two isn't bad. You're still in the NBA."
• The Sonics held workouts for Alabama F Jermareo Davidson, Syracuse C Darryl Watkins, F Major Wingate of Turkey and C Ralfi Silva Ansaloni of Brazil.
• The team will host a draft party at Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center next Thursday. Doors open at 3 p.m., and the event will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Voice of the Sonics Kevin Calabro will serve as master of ceremonies and several ex-Sonics players, mascot Squatch and members of the Sonics Dance Team will attend.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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