Those Sonics Look Awfully Familiar

Rookie Kevin Durant is one of several Seattle SuperSonics with ties to the Washington area.
Rookie Kevin Durant is one of several Seattle SuperSonics with ties to the Washington area. (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 7, 2008

Seattle SuperSonics rookie Kevin Durant drew loud applause from his hometown fans late in the first quarter, as he got a feed from teammate Johan Petro, spun toward the basket and jammed with both hands.

During a 40-second span of the second quarter, former Georgetown star and fellow rookie Jeff Green cut to the basket for an emphatic two-handed slam, then former Eleanor Roosevelt High star Delonte West crossed up DeShawn Stevenson with a dribble, sliced to the basket and dunked.

And those were all of the highlights for SuperSonics with local ties during a 108-86 loss to the Wizards on Sunday in Washington. For them, there wasn't much else to get excited about.

Green was in foul trouble most of the game, Durant's shooting went afoul after the first period and while West, a reserve, had a decent game, it couldn't impact the final result. The disappointing homecoming game concluded with rookies Durant and Green strolling to the locker room, shirtless, with their faces aimed at the floor.

"I didn't envision us losing that bad. I didn't envision us losing at all," said Durant, who finished with 19 points but missed 14 of 21 field goal attempts. "I didn't care if I played well, I just wanted the win. Unfortunately, we didn't. Losing -- that's always tough -- if it's in D.C. or L.A."

Durant, the No. 2 overall pick from last summer's NBA draft, was playing in front of his hometown fans for the first time since he was a senior at Montrose Christian. As a freshman phenom at Texas last season, the front-runner for rookie of the year never came closer than Philadelphia. "I wouldn't say I was pressing," he said. "I can see if I was forcing or taking bad shots. Wide open shots in the corner, I'm missing. Going to the rim, missing layups."

Green, the fifth selection last June, was back at Verizon Center for the first time since March. But familiarity with the surroundings -- and even the presence of many former Hoyas teammates in the stands -- couldn't help him avoid one of his rougher nights as a pro. He scored eight points on 4-for-13 shooting with five fouls and a game-high five turnovers. "I got in early foul trouble, it threw me out of my rhythm," he said. "It's always frustrating when you lose, can't play, get in foul trouble. That's the way the game goes. You don't have a good game every game. I didn't have one."

Sonics Coach P.J. Carlesimo said he felt the emotions of returning home "probably played a little bit of a factor" for Durant and West. "Even taking the peaks and valleys that rookies have, I don't think either one of them played as well as they've been playing," said Carlesimo, who credited defenders Stevenson and Caron Butler for attacking his youngsters.

With so many players on the team with roots in the Washington area -- Prince George's County, specifically -- West smiled at the nickname that the team has been given locally. "The P.G. Sonics," West said. "That's the first time I heard that. You throw in Chris Wilcox, he went to Maryland. P.G. Sonics -- that fits."

Wilcox, who is recovering from a dislocated right pinkie, didn't travel with the team. But West said having Green and Durant around has made the adjustment to the Pacific Northwest easier for the trio. "D.C. guys tend to have their own language, their own way of doing things," said West, who was acquired along with Green in a draft-day trade with Boston. "I don't want to say it makes it hard to relate to others; it just makes it easier to have guys who understand what you're talking about and where you're coming from."

The Sonics gave their heralded rookies and West an extended home break, arriving in town on Friday. Durant, West and Green used the opportunity to sneak in plenty of hours at home with family and friends.

West, who had nine points and four assists, perhaps had the most interesting arrangement this weekend. The fourth-year veteran shunned the plush downtown hotel to sleep on a twin bed in his mother's basement in Brandywine. The room is equipped with a 19-inch television. "With no cable," West said with a laugh. He watched the NFL playoff game between the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks in a different room. "Aw man, that hurt me last night," West said of the Redskins' loss.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company