In Kevin Durant's homecoming, Seattle makes strong case for NBA return


SEATTLE -- This was not Kevin Durant Night. But it was, in almost every sense of the phrase.

The basketball game, a 122-94 thumping of the injury-thinned Sacramento Kings, was rather rudimentary for a Warriors team accustomed to winning at a historically high rate. They came, they destroyed and they boarded a late-night buss to the airport for the return flight to Oakland.

What they left behind, though, were Friday night memories that will linger for years and an emphatic plea to the NBA they may echo until their request is met.

Put the Seattle SuperSonics, the team that drafted Durant 11 years ago, back on the NBA map.

“The message was sent over these last 11 years,” Durant said afterward. “There’s still support for the Sonics in NBA arenas around the country. Around the world, so many people know what the Sonics culture is and that’s something the NBA can’t ignore. Tonight was kind of the cherry on top, as far as saying, 'Hey, look, man. We deserve a team here. We’ll support a team and they need to bring one back.'

“We’re going to keep saying it until it happens, all of us here, everybody in that arena. Every NBA player knows it. So, hopefully, the NBA does what it’s supposed to do.”

The Sonics hauled out a long list of figures associated with the franchise and the city, from Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Gary Payton, to Spencer Haywood and Jamal Crawford, to Brandon Roy and Sue Bird, to Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, to Robinson Cano and the rapper Macklemore.

They wanted to make a statement that, in the minds of many, shouldn’t have to be made.

“Everybody who has been in the league a long time has a soft spot for Seattle, just because of the history of the franchise and the beauty and brilliance of the city,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “It just doesn’t seem right that the Sonics are not part of the NBA.”

The Sonics relocated after the 2007-08 season, Durant’s rookie year. He played only that season in Seattle, but local fans clearly continue to follow him and still consider him one of their own.

His pregame surprise didn’t hurt.

Durant was the last member of the Warriors to be introduced and as he rose from his seat on the bench to join his fellow starters on the court, he flung off his Warriors sweat jacket to reveal a Shawn Kemp throwback Sonics jersey.

The clamor in the building blasted off the walls.

“I’m not really big into surprises and all that stuff,” said Durant. “But I thought it would be cool if I just honored one of the past legends. I thought the fans would enjoy it, and they did. So I’m glad it played out that way.”

Durant reveled in this adoring environment, the polar opposite of the treatment he receives in return trips to Oklahoma City, where he and the Sonics moved in the summer of 2008. It was evident watching him play and hearing him speak that there was a genuine fondness of the region and a sincere appreciation for this sellout crowd (17,074) at KeyArena.

Though his emotions were on display at the start, he settled in and finished with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 26 minutes.

“I didn’t feel like I was even in the game until the second quarter,” Durant said.

“I feel like everything was about me. It was definitely weird. It’s only cool for tonight; I wouldn’t want that any other night. But it was definitely weird. It took me a while to refocus and focus on trying to get better and realizing that this was just a preseason game. Everybody was pumped up.”

Durant was particularly touched by the presence of a Seattle superfan Lorin “Big Lo” Sandretzky, who is known for stirring up Seahawks crowds at CenturyLink Field on the opposite side of downtown.

Often during Durant’s one season in town it was Sandretzky who would meet the team at the airport upon returning from road trips.

“It was so good to see him and give him a hug,” Durant said. “He told me he missed me, and he loved me and that I’m one of the greatest ever. And I’m like, “Man, that’s how I feel about you.’ “

That’s how all of Seattle seems to feel about Durant. That’s how everybody in the Warriors locker room seemed to feel about Seattle, as if they’d like to come back -- and bring the rest of the NBA with them.

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