- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

SEATTLE — Kevin Durant was welcomed yesterday as the public face and cornerstone of the Seattle SuperSonics.

Durant was accompanied by Jeff Green, whose availability was the catalyst behind a stunning draft night trade that shipped seven-time All-Star Ray Allen from Seattle to Boston, and landed the Sonics two of the top five picks.

Seattle general manager Sam Presti, the youngest in the league at age 30, sees Durant and Green as the Sonics’ future.

“These guys represent so much of what we want to establish as Sonics’ basketball — great human beings, great work ethic, love for the game, play for the team,” Presti said. “To me, that’s what it’s about.”

Presti’s next decision: will Rashard Lewis be a part of that foundation?

With Durant and Green now in the fold, Seattle has a glut of forwards on its roster and a pricey decision to make regarding Lewis when the NBA free agency period begins tomorrow.

Lewis is expected to command a salary in the range of $15 million per season, and be heavily sought after by many teams. The 6-foot-10 forward is coming off his best season, where he averaged career-highs in points (22.4), rebounds (6.6) and assists (2.4).

Publicly, Seattle is expressing its interest in bringing back Lewis. Presti says he can’t wait to see the matchup problems a lineup including Lewis, Durant and Green would pose for opponents — even if all three play essentially the same position. The trade of Allen also frees up some money to help in the courting of Lewis.

But Lewis‘ agent, Tony Dutt, is still waiting to hear exactly what the Sonics’ plans are.

“Once we sit down with them we’ll know their vision. We expect them to be pretty aggressive and move pretty fast,” Dutt said. “We want to hear it from their perspective the direction they’re headed and then analyze how he fits at that point.

Lewis and Dutt watched Thursday’s draft together, when it was announced that Allen had been traded to Boston for the rights to Green, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak. Dutt was expecting to meet with Sonics’ officials this weekend, and was planning plenty of phone calls early tomorrow when free agency begins.

“We hope to get through it fairly quickly,” Dutt said.

Meanwhile, Durant was fighting fatigue, but finally succumb to yawning in the middle of another interview.

“Long week,” said the Associated Press college player of the year, dressed in a light blue suit and, just like a teenager, white sneakers.

Alongside Durant was Green, the forward who left Georgetown following his junior year and helping the Hoyas reach the Final Four. Green, the Big East player of the year last season, was a surprising and welcome addition for Durant.

“It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be easier than I thought, because someone from Washington D.C., is going to be along with me,” Durant said of his transition to the pro game. “I just can’t wait to get started.”

The selection of Durant was long expected by Sonics’ fans and team officials. Durant was greeted in Seattle by ads in both newspapers and television commercials proclaiming Durant’s arrival as the start of the “New Era” of Sonics’ basketball.

Radio spots were being played on local airwaves in which Durant hit a fictitious buzzer beater. It’s a little much for the soft-spoken Texas star who grew up in the nation’s capital, but Durant accepts it’s part of the job.

“There is nothing I can do about it. It’s fun, but at the same time it’s kind of overwhelming knowing where I came from and now people want to buy my NBA jersey it’s fun,” Durant said. “I’m loving this aspect of it, but I can’t wait to get on the floor.”

In pulling off the trade, Presti bid adieu to the Sonics’ leading scorer since Allen’s arrival in the middle of the 2002-03 season, the veteran voice in the locker room, and the public face of the franchise.

In terms of public persona, that role would seem to fall now to Durant.

“We’ve got to let each guy who comes into the program be themselves,” Presti said. “I think team philosophy and core values that we are going to preach and are going to live by are going to dictate the culture of the organization and the culture of the team.”

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