I remember this story. A new owner hoping to revitalize his team plucks a hot, young executive from the ranks of the San Antonio Spurs. Said executive quickly turns around and drafts an big, explosive, versatile scorer and pairs him with a former Spurs assistant coach who is going to match his offensive prowess with a defensive mindset.
For all those who picked up on the analogy with the Cleveland Cavaliers, good for you.
Depending on the person, this comparison is either music to your ears or a horror story waiting to unfold.
In the case of the Cavaliers, they trumped even the most optimistic of expectations and made their way to the NBA Finals last spring in only LeBron's fourth year. However, they accomplished that goal solely on the efforts of the unstoppable force that is James, who is continually asked to go one-on-five for lack of better options.
Now, being fair, the comparisons between the two franchises appear skin-deep. First of all, the Sonics simply don't have the point guard issues that Cleveland has. If anything, they have the exact opposite of point guard issues that Cleveland has. The Sonics currently employ three good, and very different, point guards in Luke Ridnour, Delonte West and Earl Watson. Chalk that one up for the boys in green.
Another benefit in Seattle is that their celebrated draft pick, Kevin Durant, came packaged with another hot, young prospect in Jeff Green. While he may not necessarily represent a second-banana - at least not without having played a minute of NBA ball - he offers the team something in the way of a second option on offence as well as a willing passer and rebounder.
Another benefit in Seattle is that head coach P.J. Carlesimo does not come strictly from the ranks of defensive coordination like Mike Brown did. Instead he is a far more well-rounded general who may impose an edict of defense-first, but he is more than capable of designing a workable offense, especially with newly-hired assistant Paul Westhead at his side. Carlesimo stayed with the Spurs through multiple Championship runs and is far better prepared to lead a team of his own than Brown was two seasons ago.
Of course, there are still plenty of questions for Sonics fans. First, when will bitter relocation disputes stop keeping the team itself out of the headlines? At a time when the Sonics around about to open training camp with perhaps the most celebrated rookie since James, one would think that the team owner would have some interest in getting THAT story on the front page. Instead, he insists on making good on his one-way ticket to Oklahoma City, come hell or high water.
Another question, and more to the basketball side of things, is what kind of team do the Sonics actually have on their hands? While the team is certainly not lacking for talent, they do lack any sort of obvious identity. What was once a two-headed offense run by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis is now more of a mish-mash of collegiate standouts, aging veterans and a host of unskilled seven-footers taken out of high school. At this point no one can even say for certain what the starting five might look like come opening night.
Even with those questions floating about, the Sonics are a better team today than they were yesterday. While they may not match the win output of a year ago, they have made a decision to move forward with the franchise and that can only be seen as a good thing. Durant is now the big rookie of the NBA with Greg Oden sidelined after microfracture surgery and the Sonics are hoping he shows them enough this year to justify blowing up the team to rebuild around him. There are no guarantees in professional sports, but it's a fairly safe assumption they can't sink lower than the rut they've been in the last two years.