Lewis leaving hurts Durant the most
Kevin Durant needed Rashard Lewis. He needed a complementary inside-outside scoring threat. He needed a pressure-relief valve. Durant needed a veteran...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Kevin Durant needed Rashard Lewis. He needed a complementary inside-outside scoring threat. He needed a pressure-relief valve.
Durant needed a veteran who had his back, who would make sure that, night after long night next season, he wouldn't be double-teamed and beaten up and bullied by bigger, stronger, older players.
But this week, Durant lost that crutch. And the young Sonics front office lost some of its innocence.
After nine seasons in Seattle, Lewis agreed to sign with Orlando for five years and $75 million.
The new Sonics blew this one badly. They didn't anticipate the speed with which the Orlando Magic rushed to sign free-agent Lewis.
They didn't get into a position to talk to Lewis' agent, Tony Dutt, about a possible sign-and-trade deal.
If they were resigned to losing Lewis, the least they could have done was get something back for him — some draft picks, maybe an expiring Magic contract that could free up cap space next summer.
League sources say Lewis' camp might have agreed to a sign-and-trade had the Sonics hired Dwane Casey as their coach instead of former San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo, because of Lewis' affection for Casey.
But the Sonics hired Carlesimo, let Lewis walk and let their inexperience show.
But don't blame new 30-year-old general manager Sam Presti for this. He was hired three weeks before the draft and three weeks and four days before the start of free agency.
He was given his first general manager's job, but given no time to prepare.
It was a little like giving a young pitching prospect his first big-league start at the World Series, in Yankee Stadium.
Presti had no chance to ease into the job. He had to cram for the draft, cram for free agency.
He was the victim of his organization's disorganization. By the time he visited Lewis in Houston last Sunday, it was too late.
Owner Clay Bennett has meandered his way through this offseason as if he has the rest of eternity to fix his franchise.
He waited two weeks to fire former coach Bob Hill. He never got a handle on how to handle Lenny Wilkens.
He dawdled on Lewis, until the Magic woke him up to the swift realities of free agency.
And he didn't settle on Carlesimo as his coach until almost a week after the draft and a few days before the start of the Las Vegas Summer League.
It's one thing to be deliberate. It's another to dawdle.
This is the early scorecard on Clay Bennett: no arena deal, no Rashard Lewis, and nothing in compensation for the loss of Lewis.
As for the arena and Bennett's plans to begin his exit strategy at the end of October, expect the city to put up a fight.
The city is sending out a letter saying it is investigating legal solutions to keep the Sonics in Key Arena through the end of their lease, the 2009-2010 season. If the city has the guts, it doesn't have to accept a buyout from Bennett. Keeping the Sonics through the end of the lease — of course this is a long shot — could open the door for local ownership. It also would buy more time to find a real arena solution.
Amid all of these distractions, Presti is trying to put a plan together. Despite the stumbles this week, he's trying to rebuild the franchise the right way. He's going to be a very good general manager for a very long time — if only Bennett will get out of his way.
Losing Lewis hurts. He would have been a veteran complement to Durant. He would have gotten calls that a rookie doesn't get.
I don't think Lewis ever got his due in Seattle — from the fans, the league and even the writers. When the Sonics picked him in the second round of the 1998 draft, he already was a disillusioned kid.
He was promised he would be drafted in the first round. The scene of him crying, the last guy left in the draft's green room, is indelible.
But he came to Seattle and, with the incessant prodding of Nate McMillan and Casey, he became an All-Star. He averaged 20 or more points in his last three seasons as a Sonic.
He wasn't a great defender, but he was a decent rebounder and a great teammate. Basketball fans here were fortunate to watch him grow up, watch him become part of the community away from the game.
Nobody can blame him for wanting to play with Dwight Howard in Orlando. He can't be faulted for wanting to leave the uncertainty of Seattle.
But the inexperienced Sonics should have gotten something back for him. And losing him for nothing was just part of this bad week for basketball in Seattle.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176
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.