Fans, legends roll out red carpet for Durant
All that was missing was Mayor Greg Nickels and the key to the city. Seemingly everyone gathered at a rally on a postcard-perfect day at...
Seattle Times staff reporter
All that was missing was Mayor Greg Nickels and the key to the city.
Seemingly everyone gathered at a rally on a postcard-perfect day at Green Lake Park to get their first glimpse at Seattle's newest superstar.
At 12:09 p.m., the crowd of 300-plus erupted into cheers as Kevin Durant — the 6-foot-9 forward taken No. 2 overall by the Sonics in Thursday's NBA draft — stepped onstage and waved to fans wearing green No. 35 Durant T-shirts.
"I think I'm still dreaming," he said. "This has been one of my dreams for as long as I can remember and in a way, it still doesn't feel real. To see all of those people coming out like that for me, it felt good. It felt like this is really my home now."
Durant was the last person introduced in a procession of Seattle sports dignitaries that included Washington's women's basketball coach Tia Jackson; Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander; Mariners closer J.J. Putz; and Sonics legends Bob Blackburn, Spencer Haywood and Slick Watts. Lorenzo Romar, UW men's basketball coach, made a cameo at the end of the rally.
Even surrounded by a bevy of stars, the day belonged to Durant, who spent nearly an hour signing autographs and shaking hands. The Sonics' other first-round pick, forward Jeff Green, was in Seattle on Friday but flew home to Washington, D.C. He'll reunite with Durant next week in Las Vegas, where the two will lead Seattle's summer team in a five-game tournament.
"I'm really happy to see this turnout," said Durant's father, Wayne Pratt. "It's amazing."
Saturday's event wasn't simply a chance for Durant to connect with fans. He spoke with Alexander and Putz about their Seattle experiences. Haywood, the city's first true professional superstar, told stories from the Sonics' early days and showed Durant an old Nike advertisement featuring Haywood.
Everyone gave advice — wanted or not — to the former Texas forward, who is expected to revive a franchise that has missed the playoffs in four of the past five years and had a 31-51 record last season.
"Shaun just told me to enjoy it and that Seattle is a great place," Durant said. "He said hopefully I'll be able to try to keep them [the Sonics] here in Seattle."
Said Romar: "It's one thing to have someone place the franchise on your shoulders. It happened to Ray Allen when he was traded here and Shaq [O'Neal] when he went to Los Angeles. But it's another thing for someone that's 18 years old and never played an NBA game yet and just a year removed from high school.
"That's a lot of pressure. But if anyone can handle it, he appears able to. I've been really impressed with his character and him as a person."
Durant will fly home to D.C. with his parents today, and he's expected to return to Seattle after the Las Vegas tournament. He said he's eager to begin house-hunting with his mother, Wanda Pratt, who will live with him in Seattle.
"I just can't wait to get back on the court and start playing some games," Durant said. "I'm anxious and just kind of jumpy right now because I know a lot of people are expecting great things from me."
Free agency begins today, and Sonics general manager Sam Presti and front-office executives are scheduled to meet today with Rashard Lewis' agent, Tony Dutt.
Lewis opted out of the final two years of his Sonics contract, forfeiting $21 million in hopes of securing a long-term deal of $80 million or more. Besides Seattle, Charlotte and Orlando are the only teams with salary-cap space to give Lewis the type of contract he wants.
Dutt, talking to the Orlando Sentinel, said of the Magic, "There is no better fit."
Several teams, including Miami and New York, have reportedly expressed an interest in pursuing a sign-and-trade deal for Lewis.
The Associated Press reported that Houston general manager Daryl Morey said the club is "going after Rashard," who attended high school in suburban Houston.
A nine-year veteran, Lewis averaged 22.4 points last season with the Sonics.
"Orlando is a good situation. It's a fit that could work," Dutt said. "If the parameters are there, they can make it work.
"It's very intriguing to Rashard."
The Magic also has several other positives that Lewis finds appealing. Orlando is in the wide-open Eastern Conference. Lewis has been frustrated playing on an also-ran in the powerhouse Western Conference against the likes of San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix.
• Presti did not attend Saturday's rally, working instead on the coaching search. He is believed to have had a second meeting with one of the candidates, either San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo or Dwane Casey, the former Sonics assistant and Minnesota coach. Other candidates include Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin and Sacramento assistant Scott Brooks. Detroit assistant Terry Porter may also be a candidate, according to a league source.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
The Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 08:52 AM
Hundreds attend funeral for fallen Mich. player
UPDATE - 09:40 AM
Norway's Tarjei Boe wins men's biathlon at worlds
NEW - 08:46 AM
Tripoli ruled unsafe for international soccer
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
I've been fortunate to have traveled the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. Exotic islands, too. Wherever I go, I'm struck by one undeniable trut...
Post a comment