Clay Bennett and his Petroleum Club buddies who bought the Seattle SuperSonics got lucky with the lottery that put Kevin Durant on their roster. Then they made their own luck with the hiring of general manager Sam Presti. The Whiz Kid from San Antonio, the 30-year-old turning Seattle into the SuperSpurs, has dealed and wheeled since his June 6 hiring, clearly charting a path for this team, which might not know where it's playing beyond this season but most assuredly knows where it's going. Straight up the Western Conference standings. That's why the next 15 weeks, as Oklahoma City waits out Seattle's apparent apathy for the Sonics, will be even more anxious than the usual market-in-waiting. OKC could be getting more than its own NBA franchise. We could be getting the league's hippest team. Counting 2007 additions Durant and Jeff Green, Presti has given the Sonics seven first-round draft picks in a four-year span. Two this year, the Sonics' pick the next three drafts and the Suns' slots in 2008 and 2010. That's an incredible infusion of talent. That's Extreme Makeover: NBA edition. The Sonics last season were the worst kind of team. Bad and old, at least at the top. Seattle went 31-51, and its star was a one-dimensional 31-year-old, sharpshooter Ray Allen; his sidekick was a one-dimensional 27-year-old, gunner Rashard Lewis. Presti blew up the roster and started over. Tough love for Seattle. Blessed hope for Oklahoma City. Nothing could be better for OKC. Presti has condemned the Sonics to a horrible finish next season; Seattle is as good a bet as any to finish with the league's worst record, which would guarantee the Sonics a top-three draft pick. Oklahoma City could reap the benefit of a high lottery pick, but on another city's dime. If the Sonics come here, by their second Ford Center season, they will look nothing like the bedraggled roster that Seattle has seen the last two years. They will have Durant and Green and a couple of other early draft picks, maybe a spiffy point guard, and a roster void of over-priced veterans, giving Presti payroll-cap flexibility to add needed pieces. Some NBA cities get their start by suffering through years of expansion-team misery. We were spared that with a competitive Hornets team, and if Durant and Co. show up, we'll be spared that again, getting a team that figures to be rough around the edges but getting better every game and quite capable of turning into a contender quite quickly. Sonics mania would surpass Hornets frenzy anyway, being Oklahoma City's own team, but throw in the Durant and Co. kicker, and Bennett's sales job on the Oklahoma public becomes a gravy train. So Oklahoma City's NBA future is quite bright, long as Seattle still yawns at the prospect of keeping its 40-year team. When the Hornets' huddled masses arrived in September 2005, we were so excited to have an NBA franchise hit town, we barely glanced at their record. Good thing. The Hornets came to OKC off one of the worst seasons in NBA history. The 2004-05 New Orleans squadron started 2-29, which meant they were out of the playoffs by New Year's, and finished 18-64. That's historically bad. Since the advent of the 82-game schedule in 1966, only 32 teams have won less than 18 games. Turns out, the Hornets were no 18-64 team. David West became a ballplayer, Chris Paul became the rookie of the year and the Oklahoma City crowd turned into the NBA's best sixth man. Those Hornets won 38 games and sparked a passion passion. The Sonics shouldn't fall into 18-64 range, but no way does Seattle get to 30 wins next season. And we won't even glance at that record. Not because we're NBA novices that will take any poor, tired team, but because the Sonics' future has gone from bleak to bright this summer.
Seattle rookie forward Jeff Green shoots over Golden State guard Toby Bailey during an NBA summer league basketball game in Las Vegas on July 13. ASSOCIATED PRESS