Current, former Sonics upset by team’s exit
By Percy Allen
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — In NBA parlance, two words sum up the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City: Bad trade.
"I would say so, but then I’m a little emotional right now," said Damien Wilkins, who has played his entire four-year NBA career with the Sonics. "I’m really, really mad. I’m disappointed for the city of Seattle. I’m disappointed for the fans and the people that supported us for the last 41 years."
Kevin Durant, who won the rookie-of-the-year award last season with the Sonics, expressed dismay when told his first season in Seattle would be his last.
"I’m a little shocked and a little disappointed," he said. "First of all, I didn’t know we would be leaving Seattle this soon. I feel for the fans in Seattle.
"Even though it wasn’t a great year for our team, they always supported us. I feel for the fans. Me and my family made Seattle our new home, and it’s going to be tough getting up and moving."
Durant, who is taking classes at the University of Texas, received a text message from his cousin who told him the city of Seattle and the Sonics agreed on a settlement. Slowly, Durant discovered more details, including the $45 million buyout.
Finally, he heard the team would begin moving immediately and play the 2008-09 season in Oklahoma City.
"When I heard it, I didn’t know what to believe," said Durant, who bought a $2.8 million home in Mercer Island last year. "We’ve got to move on, continue to be professional and play basketball."
Sonics players — current and retired and across the country and local — had difficulty coming to grips with the news.
"I’m overwhelmed," said Spencer Haywood, who played five seasons in Seattle and has his retired No. 24 jersey hanging from the KeyArena rafters. "I have a lump in my throat with the idea of it. I thought there was a fighting chance, but also felt in my heart that it wouldn’t happen because of the owners’ vote.
"There’s a lot of fond memories. I can’t believe all that money in Seattle and we end up like this. Man, that’s deep. I grew up there. But what do you say when the Mayor and everybody else is taking the money and moving on? I’m just a guy who enjoyed my time in Seattle as a player."
Several ex-Sonics harped on the missteps that have led a proud franchise with a 1979 NBA championship to extinction. And others are optimistic local investors will succeed in returning the NBA to Seattle.
"I think Steve Ballmer has the right idea for another team," said Talvin Skinner, who played three years with the Sonics. "If he can get a petition of people together it would make sense. But he can’t mess with Howard Schultz. He has to get some people that actually know basketball and people with some influence, like Fred Brown."
"I hope the new ownership group and the state Legislature combine their efforts to upgrade the Key to NBA standards," said agent Eric Goodwin, who represents Durant and former Sonic Gary Payton. "Then someday Seattle fans can see Gary Payton’s Sonics jersey raised to the rafters as Kevin Durant plays on the KeyArena floor again. It could happen."
But not this year.
For the first time in 41 years, the NBA will not include the Sonics when the season begins in the fall.
"I think about the guys who were on the championship team," longtime Sonics broadcaster Kevin Calabro said. "I think about the 40th anniversary we had two years ago and all the greats we had here. I think about the passing of D.J. (Dennis Johnson). I think about Bob Blackburn. I think about the founders of this team…
"Then I think about guys like Luke Ridnour and Nick Collison, two guys who really represent the best of the NBA… They’re all connected. All of them. In big ways and small ways. And for now, all we have are the memories to remind us this used to be a pretty good basketball town."