Hello Durant, goodbye Allen
The day promised to be special. With the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, the Sonics figured to select a player who'd transform a franchise...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Thursday saw the Sonics add four new players and trade Ray Allen.
Drafted: Kevin Durant
Traded away: Ray Allen and the No. 35 pick (Glen Davis) to Boston; the No. 31 pick (Carl Landry) to Houston
Acquired in trade: No. 5 pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, two future second-round picks
The day promised to be special. With the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, the Sonics figured to select a player who'd transform a franchise that has missed the playoffs in four of the past five years and finished 31-51 last season.
Taking Kevin Durant, the offensive savant from the University of Texas, was a no-brainer after the Portland Trail Blazers made Ohio State center Greg Oden the first player chosen.
The real fireworks occurred seconds earlier when new general manager Sam Presti dealt seven-time All-Star Ray Allen to Boston for the No. 5 pick, forward Wally Szczerbiak and guard Delonte West. The Celtics also received Seattle's 35th pick (Glen Davis) in the second round for a 2008 second-round pick.
The Sonics landed Georgetown junior forward Jeff Green with fifth pick and traded Purdue senior forward Carl Landry, who was chosen at No. 31, to Houston for a future second-round pick.
"Coming into tonight, we knew that we were going to add a great player with the second pick and we are thrilled to have Kevin, but at the same time to make a decision to move a player and a person like Ray Allen was tremendously difficult," Presti said. "What I can tell you is that Boston really pursued this. What started as a smaller conversation began to build and their pursuit was impeccable. I can absolutely understand that Ray is going to be a great fit for them."
Presti began the day with a deal in place with Atlanta that would have sent guard Luke Ridnour to the Hawks for the No. 11 pick and the chance to draft Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey. Still, Presti held out hopes of making a bigger deal.
As late as Wednesday morning, Boston GM Danny Ainge was adamant about keeping the No. 5 pick and he denied reports that Boston was making a trade.
But both teams agreed to terms shortly before the start of the draft.
"This was a very tough decision, however, for where it is that we want to go, we felt that this was the best decision for the organization at this time," Presti said. "We don't want our championships to be making the playoffs. What we want is sustained success. We want long-term growth and we want the opportunity to see our group growing within an aligned timeline."
Presti, who spent the past seven years in San Antonio, has repeatedly said he wants to improve the defense for a team that ranked 22nd among 30 teams in points allowed and 28th in opponent field-goal percentage.
The Sonics have 13 players under contract and even though the team added forwards in Durant, Green and Szczerbiak, Presti said the Allen trade increases the chances of re-signing unrestricted free agent Rashard Lewis.
But even if Lewis returns, Thursday's moves secure Durant as the franchise's centerpiece.
K-Smoove, as he was nicknamed by childhood friends, may also be known as The Savior if he fulfills the promise of his potential. Many believe the freakishly gifted 6-feet-9 forward has the ability to return the team to the playoffs and the star power to assist owner Clay Bennett in his effort to secure public support and financing on a new arena in the Seattle area.
That's a lot of responsibility to put on someone who celebrates his 19th birthday on Sept. 29.
The Sonics need only to examine their history to understand the potential impact of a player like Durant. In 1990, Seattle took Gary Payton No. 2 and the Sonics entered a golden age. Seattle had a .626 winning percentage during Payton's 12-plus season, including a trip to the 1996 Finals.
"The sport is not a one-man sport," Durant said. "I can't wait to get out there with my new family and my teammates. It's going to be a great year for us, hopefully."
Durant guided Texas to a 25-10 record and became the first freshman in NCAA history to be chosen national player of the year. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 points in 35 games.
Durant is slotted to earn $3.5 million next season and $3.7 million in 2008-09. He'll receive a four-year deal, in which the first two years are guaranteed; the Sonics hold a team option for the final two years. Green is slated to earn $2.5 million next season and $2.7 million the following season.
Szczerbiak has two years left on his contract at $12 million this year and $13 million in 2008-09, while West has a year left at $1.9 million with a qualifying offer for the season after.
"We're structured now to be in a very strong position financially a little earlier than we were before," Presti said. "This deal is multifaceted. There's a financial component in terms of flexibility and ability to build around a young corps."
As the Durant era begins, the Allen era came to an unexpected halt.
The sweet-shooting guard, who arrived in Seattle on Feb. 20, 2003, in a trade with Milwaukee involving Payton, will best be remembered for leading the Sonics to 52 wins and nearly upsetting San Antonio in the 2005 Western Conference semifinals. He improved his scoring average in each of the past four years, but Seattle made only one playoff appearance during his 4 ½-year tenure.
"This is not about one grand-slam event or one defining moment," Presti said. "It's about incremental steps and chipping away at it. Shaping this and developing this so that we're in a position to compete not for the eighth seed, but ultimately for playing when it's warm outside."
Presti will now return to the coaching search, which is likely to end early next week with a hire.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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