And even though it's not on the NBA transactions page, the word is that the Sonics participated in a three-way deal with the Bulls and Cavaliers, which result in Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West being traded for Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall and Adrian Griffin. Obviously none of those players will be available for tonight's game. That leaves 11 players by my count, which is more than enough.
But to the questions. Kevin Pelton, who works for the Sonics, answered a few questions about his team in exchange for me answering a few questions about our team (he also made a neat graph of the Trail Blazers season). Here's what Kevin had to say.
Casey: How does the trading away of Kurt Thomas and the acquisition of Brent Barry and Francisco Elson change the SuperSonics?
Kevin: In Thomas they lose a veteran who had played very well in the middle this season. On offense, Thomas' midrange game made him effective running the pick-and-pop with Kevin Durant, and defensively he is terrific one-on-one in the post and always in the right position.
However, the Sonics wanted to get young Robert Swift in the rotation in the middle as his comeback from a torn right ACL progresses, and playing five big men wasn't a possibility. Dealing Thomas moves Swift into the rotation and gives Johan Petro a chance to start. Petro, in his third year, has played very well recently off the bench and will now try to translate that production into increased minutes.
Casey: What has been the consensus opinion in Seattle regarding the performance of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green?
Kevin: Well, if you want the consensus I'm not really sure, but here's one observer's opinion. Durant has been thrust into a challenging situation, with the Sonics running a lot of their offense through him. The spotlight has been more powerful on him because he isn't sharing it with Greg Oden as would be the case if Oden were playing this season. Durant has handled it all in a manner belying the fact that he is just 19. He has demonstrated great character all year long and his game has grown over the course of the season. He became much more comfortable using Thomas' screens and has made strides defensively, where he uses his length to make up for occasional mistakes born of inexperience and create problems for smaller offensive players.
As for Green, he has been a regular part of the starting lineup since the Sonics last visited Portland in late December. The transition from a very structured offense at Georgetown where he was the focal point to playing a role in the more free-flowing NBA environment has been a challenging one at times for Green. He's learning to pick his spots and use his myriad skills to impact the game. We've seen growth this season in his outside shot and his ability to create for his teammates, which was a strength in college.
Casey: The Trail Blazers went through a similar situation with the Rose Garden as the Sonics are going through now with Key Arena. How much of a distraction has that situation been?
Kevin: I think the Sonics front office and the coaching staff have done a great job of making sure that it has not been an issue. They've been consistent in their mindset that the Sonics as a basketball team have jobs to do and the outside stuff will work itself out. The players and coaches had to deal with a lot of questions about the situation early in the season, but since then it's been relatively a non-issue. I haven't seen any kind of sign that it has been a distraction.
Thanks to Kevin for the great answers. Tip-off is set for 7:30 tonight, and it's Brandon Roy bobblehead night!