With the NBA opening its season this week, I had a chance to talk with TNT broadcasters Doug Collins, Reggie Miller and Marv Albert and ESPN’s Hubie Brown and Jeff Van Gundy about the Seattle SuperSonics and Oklahoma City’s future as a possible NBA site. Here are some of their comments.
Doug Collins: I did the Seattle game last week against the Lakers. So I got a chance to read and see all that was going on. Well, Seattle has two very young talented players in Jeff Green and Durant. Durant, if he can stay healthy, is going to be a star. He’s an offensive machine. This guy is probably going to be in the top 20 in scoring this year.
How will the city respond? Well, first of all Seattle has been a great NBA city through 40 years. Personally, I would hate to see the Sonics leave. I have so many fond memories of the great players and the championships and all that have been through there. The Sonics have a very tough start. I think they have eight of their first 12 are on the road. They have a five-game Eastern swing. So if they get off to a slow start and with all that is going on with this lease and what’s going to happen, it will be interesting to see how the fans in Seattle are going to react. Are are going to support the team? Are they going to say there’s no need for us to go because they’re not going to be here next year. That’s something to watch. Obviously for the first game there against Phoenix on Thursday night, I’m sure will be a great crowd. It will be interesting to see whether they can hold and captivate those people.
For Oklahoma City, I was so impressed. We did a game there last year. But here’s a city that basically knew they had a team for maybe a couple of years. But the support that they gave that team, I think they were reaching out to the NBA and saying, “Hey, look. We can be an NBA city. We can support a team.” And so it’s going to be very interesting because I thought they were very, very good to the Hornets and gave them a homecourt advantage.
Now with the Hornets going back to Louisiana, we’ll see how that plays itself out. With the All-Star game in February, I know there’s a lot of buzz in that city. I hope the fans will get out and really support that team because they are a high-energy, fun team to watch.
Reggie Miller: I think they (the Sonics) are a young team in flux. They got the No. 2 pick in Kevin Durant. They got the No. 5 pick in Jeff Green from Georgetown. Point guard Luke Ridnour, backed up by (Earl) Watson, is a good guard tandem. But I think they are going to take their bumps and bruises early. Kevin Durant needs to get stronger, but the Sonics have a face now — they have an identity. Now the question for (new coach) P.J. Carlesimo is what type of style are they going to be able to play with night in and night out. As for the move, I think the courts are really going to decide that. No one really knows that. I think it’s still somewhat up in the air if they are going to more or not. I know Clay Bennett, the owner, is fighting the city to try to get the Sonics to move. Only time will tell.
Marv Albert: I agree with Doug. Particularly with the wonderful sense of NBA history that Seattle has, I would just hate to see the franchise leave Seattle. But Oklahoma City, I’ve had a chance to do several games there, and they also somewhere along the line should have an NBA franchise because of that kind of support. It’s kind of a college atmosphere with the crowd so enthusiastic. I love the fact that they stand until the Hornets hit their first field goal. They have such passion for basketball. I think we all know that they are waiting in the wings for a franchise somewhere down the line.
Hubie Brown: Well I live in Atlanta so I’m out of the mix in regards to the city suing the team, the team suing the city. Are they going to stay three years? Are they going to stay one year? Well, I just feel from a coaching staff and a players standpoint, that’s sidebar stuff. What they are concerned about is this season. I don’t think that is going to destroy the pysche of a player or a coaching staff because right now they now the contract is for three years period of time.
Now, as far as this team, they have a lot of veteran guys on this team, and then they have a major group of young kids with potential. Now the condition of Green and Durant is very, very critical because you are starting the season with two guys who are in your top rotation who have ankle injuries. This is going to be a team that probably will not make the playoffs, but they are going to be an extremely difficult team to beat in Seattle. They can put out 10 guys with a lot of experience and then two young players who were picked high in the draft and possess an awful lot of talent. But the critical part of their game is going to be their three young centers. Will the centers be able to do the job? We all know that they can put out a number of forwards and with (Wally) Szczerbiak there now that will help them in the scoring department. But then the big key to me will be the two young kids because Durant is going to be an offensive machine in this league as soon as he gets a feel for the individuals who are going to play him on a night-in and night-out basis and then the young fellow up front (Jeff Green) really has a lot of quickness and a lot of talent. As soon as they get healthy and they are on a full blast, this will be a good team to watch. Then what you’re hoping for as a coaching staff when you coach a young team that is coming off a bad season, is to see how well you play from the All-Star break to the end of the year because that will dictate where you are going next year.
Jeff Van Gundy: I think first of all Seattle is such a great basketball city. Going into Key Arena, the enthusiasm when they had their good teams was as good as any team in the league. I feel the same way about the Hornets’ time in Oklahoma. That was like a college atmosphere. I think even opposing teams looked forward to going in there to play. As far as Seattle, they traded two 20-point scorers in Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, so there are a lot of question marks about this year. Who can score the ball consistently? Can (Wally) Szerbiak? Can Delonte West? Can Durant and Jeff Green make up for what they lost scoring wise? And then last year they were a very, very substandard defensive team and so they have P.J. Carlesimo there who obviously has a great background as a defensive coach. Can he get a young team to defend well enough to win on the road? Probably not. As Hubie said your first thing is, how do you win at home. And they’ve got to try to win enough home games. And if they could get to 30 wins this year, it would be a great year for Seattle.