02-19-2017  10:46 pm      •     

Kevin Durant hadn't been a member of the SuperSonics two full days before one of the most popular players in team history anointed him Seattle's basketball savior.
"I don't want to put pressure on Kevin, but I think you will save the Sonics," Slick Watts, who played for the Sonics from 1973-78, said Saturday to Durant, the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
"I think you will help keep them in Seattle."
Durant, 18, simply smiled. The crowd gathered in front of Durant at a Seattle park cheered.
Watts joined Seattle Seahawks star Shaun Alexander, Mariners closer J.J. Putz, Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and UW women's coach Tia Jackson in introducing Durant to fans at a community event at Green Lake park, north of downtown Seattle. The Sonics estimated the event attracted about 1,000 people. Many were wearing freshly produced green shirts with "Durant 35" on the back in honor of the new, teenage face of the rebuilding franchise.
The event included a question-and-answer session with kids seated in front of Durant, who stood on a podium wearing a white polo shirt over black workout pants and sneakers. Durant told one boy that he began playing basketball at age 9, the same age he told his parents he wanted to play in the NBA.
"Now, it's your turn," Durant told the boy.
When another boy asked Durant which team he dreamed of playing for, Durant — a native of Maryland who played one season for the University of Texas — gave a crowd-pleasing response.
"If I could play for any team, it would be the Seattle SuperSonics," Durant said, prompting more cheers.
The afternoon was supposed to feature Durant teaching children during a basketball clinic. But Sonics vice president of marketing Brian Byrnes said that when so many fans and curious passers-by showed up on the brilliantly sunny day to stand behind the seated kids on the main outdoor court, the team decided not to try to clear them away. Instead, it asked Durant to sign autographs for the throng.
Durant did that for almost a half hour. Towering over each face at 6-feet-9, he signed and smiled and made eye contact with each of those who wanted a moment with the man they hope will spark such renewed interest in the Sonics that the team finds a way to stay in Seattle beyond the 2007-08 season.
Sonics owner Clay Bennett, who was not present Saturday, has set a deadline of Oct. 31 to secure a new arena in the Puget Sound region before he will begin the process of relocating the team. Bennett and his seven co-investors are from Oklahoma, and he has already told officials from Oklahoma City and Kansas City that he is exploring making one of those cities the Sonics' home for the 2008-09 season.
The Sonics have more immediate concerns. Rashard Lewis, the second-leading scorer behind Ray Allen — the All-Star guard Seattle traded to Boston Thursday — became a free agent Sunday, though general manager Sam Presti said that trading Allen makes bringing back Lewis more possible.
And the Sonics still don't have a coach, though that long search appears to now be an imminent choice between P.J. Carlesimo, the former Warriors and Trail Blazers coach, and Dwane Casey, the former coach at Minnesota and previously a longtime Seattle assistant.
An announcement on that decision is expected soon.
Fox Sports Northwest has agreed to buy the regional rights to televise live Durant's summer league game against the Portland Trail Blazers and No. 1 pick Greg Oden on July 15.

—The Associated Press

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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