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The lineup isn't the only thing in flux for the Sonics, a team in transition. They jettisoned Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, their top two scorers last season, in favor of a youth movement led by rookie forwards Kevin Durant (the second overall draft pick, out of Texas) and Jeff Green (the fifth pick, out of Georgetown). They also brought in Carlesimo to replace Bob Hill, hired the youngest general manager in the league (30-year-old Sam Presti) and are led by a fairly new ownership group from Oklahoma, which has given Seattle until opening night to agree to build a new arena--or else it may move the Sonics from Puget Sound to the Red River.
Regardless of where the team will be next year, Carlesimo's priority is building consistency. After five seasons as an assistant to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Carlesimo, along with Presti, who was the assistant G.M. with the Spurs, are trying to mold the Sonics into a similar title contender. Carlesimo has a few pieces in place. Forward-center Kurt Thomas, a 12-year veteran, will be a valuable influence on the young Sonics while fourth-year guard Luke Ridnour should steady the backcourt. Wally Szczerbiak, acquired from Boston in a draft-day deal, could make up for some of the offense Seattle lost, provided the 30-year-old stays healthy. "We're looking for continuity," says Carlesimo, "and we know we've got our work cut out for us." -- A.M.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Sonics
The Sonics are going to struggle. They blew up the team in order to go with their young guys and build around them for the future. That was the right direction to go, but the short-term problem is they don't have a go-to guy. . . . Kevin Durant has a chance to be a really good player, but his body is still immature. Over the next two or three years you'll see him blossom, but this year will probably be one of frustration and uncertainty, with glimpses of his spectacular talent mixed in. . . . Jeff Green has some superior athleticism. I've seen him dunk on guys hard, and he seems to have a good feel for the game. You might see him have a little more success than Durant this season. . . . On a good team Nick Collison would be the first big guy off the bench. . . . I like the defensive tenacity of Delonte West, as well as his size and the fact that he's lefthanded. He really competes, and he's a solid shooter. . . . Defensively Luke Ridnour is not very strong. He gets caught up in screens, and he doesn't keep guys out of the paint.
Last year Chris Wilcox had 20 double doubles, becoming Seattle's first player with that many since Gary Payton in 2002-03; the last Sonics' frontcourt player to reach that mark was Vin Baker in 1997-98.