With all the reports of competitive scrimmages down in Portland I am beginning to wonder where our new leadership is hiding out this summer.
Over the past years I have written about how competitive August and September workouts have been a trademark of the Sonics franchises. Led by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis the team pretty much reported as a whole to the Furtado Center in the first week of September. During this week players who lived out of town would join the local residents such as Allen, Luke Ridnour, and Nick Collison who practiced all summer.
This year the offseason workout regime has been fairly standard. The reliable tandem of Ridnour and Collison have been fixtures in the gym (although Ridnour took his first ever break from basketball for 4-6 weeks following the conclusion of the season). The pair was joined by Robert Swift who has begun to increase his workload as he was cleared medically. Additionally the â€œFrenchiesâ€, Petro, Gelabale, and Sene have been in town all summer although there are questions about how dedicated they have been in their practice.
Chris Wilcox has been in Seattle for several weeks but notably absent from scrimmages and workouts. Meanwhile newcomers Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak have not been visible to my knowledge.
So where are Jeff Green and Kevin Durant?
Rumblings I am hearing are that both players were expected to report the first week of September but that both chose delay their trip until the middle of this week. This change or plan reportedly caused management to tell them to not bother as both players are scheduled to report to rookie orientation in New York this weekend. The message reportedly was â€œIf youâ€™re going to just fly in for a couple of days then donâ€™t bother. We expect more from our leaders than this.â€
Readers should not make a mountain out of a molehill on this one. Both rookies spent significant amounts of their summer working out with coach PJ Carlissimo and Team USA in Las Vegas. Neither has missed any scheduled or required workouts and while I am under the impression that management was stern with them I do not have solid enough information to know whether they were heavily chastised. My inclination is that Sam Presti is going well out of his way to define the culture early and wanted to make a statement with these players.
It is not however too early to wonder where the leadership on this squad will come from. The teams longest tenured players would be Collison and Ridnour followed by 21 year old Robert Swift. All three players have shown indications that they are hard workers but Swift in particular may be struggling with the concept of leadership and the constant responsibility to set a high bar and professional tone. It appears as if Collison and Ridnour, along with established vet Kurt Thomas will be required to set the tone for this team andthere has to be a concern that none of those players will have enough â€œstar powerâ€ to make demands of their teammates. It is an unfortunate reality of this ego driven league that a players stature in the locker room is in some ways directly tied to their on the court prowess and their contract.
In my opinion team captains should be Collison and Thomas and the leadership bar should be set high for Ridnour, Swift, and potentially West and Earl Watson. As the highest scoring returning player Chris Wilcox should also be challenged to lead and eventually decisions on who to retain, or reward with higher contracts should be based largely on whether these young players step up and demonstrate that they are mentally capable of supporting the team during Kevin Durants formative years.
Those are my thoughts. Yours?