Tuesday, April 17

Last Dance?

"Clearly at this time the Sonics and Storm have little hope of remaining in the Puget Sound region."

Clayton Bennett

Well, push has finally come to shove, as it were. With the state government's refusal to vote on funding the $500+ million arena project, Clay Bennett has indicated he has finally had enough of dealing with the local legislature, and all indications are pointing towards Oklahoma City. (You can read a much more in-depth view of the situation here and here).

So, what happens next? Couple of things; first, will the Sonics still play here next season? Bennett's purchase agreement included a clause allowing him to move the team elsewhere (read: Oklahoma) should the government fail to produce a new arena, and most speculation (prompted by Bennett's own comments) led everyone to believe that because the team missed the NBA's March 1 deadline to petition for relocation, the Sonics would, at the very least, play the 2007-08 season in Seattle.

However, the Daily Oklahoman's two stories about this situation believe otherwise. As reporter John Rohde put it, "Rather than endure lame-duck status next season in Seattle, Sonics ownership might seek an immediate resolution by buying out its existing lease."

Likewise, Barry Tramel writes, "[The failed deal] means the Sonics' Oklahoma City-based owners could, and almost surely will, campaign to leave Seattle immediately.

"No one is interested in a lame-duck season.

"Not the Sonic owners, not the NBA, not even the city of Seattle, which will posture otherwise to enhance its negotiating status."

Well, that kinda sucks, huh? Obviously, that is speculation on the part of the Oklahomans, but considering Bennett's fingertips are pretty close to the pulse of that paper, one must believe the writers have some insider information.

Naturally, the city of Seattle is less than enthusiastic about seeing the only major tenant at Key Arena split before the lease has run its' course, prompting City Finance Director Dwight Dively to comment that, "If they wanted to leave before [the end of the lease] we would demand substantial financial damages." Substantial meaning tens of millions of dollars.

The elephant in the room, in my opinion, is whether the Sonics were ever truly serious about this proposal. Especially when I read comments such as these:

"The Sonics just have not done that kind of full-court press," said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Finance Committee, who opposed the proposal. "I don't know that they're serious."

Hunter was referring to the efforts put forth by Paul Allen when Allen's Seahawks were asking for a new stadium a few years ago.

Honestly, I believe Clay Bennett would have liked to have had a team in Seattle. Financially speaking, the team is more valuable here than in OKC, and when you consider that Oklahoma's stadium isn't ready for prime-time, either, well, it makes you think that Bennett wasn't as conniving as Hunter would lead you to believe.

At this point, as Mike Seely points out at Seattle Weekly, about the only ray of hope is the possibility of a special session of the legislature, called by the governor, to specifically address the stadium issue.

Personally, I don't think it's very likely at all. Unlike the Mariners, the Sonics are not riding a crest of public sentiment. They're not the "Refuse to Lose" 1995 Dream Team, they're the "3-Headed Teenage Monster Center" 2006-07 Nightmare Team, staring the wrong way up at a 31-51 season.

Teams that rally from 15 games back in August behind dramatic 9th-inning home runs and freakish 6'10" starting pitchers get stadiums.

Teams that feature Mike Wilks and Johan Petro do not.


Zach said...

I've been thinking for some time that the only way the Sonics can be saved is for them to get Greg Oden...think about it. He'd certainly sell some season tickets. He'd probably make it more likely that Rashard stays, and he'd instantly make this a playoff team (and then some).

Having Oden in the middle would help make up for the fact that the team is terrible defensively, because he's such a good shotblocker and rebounder. He'd allow Collison and Wilcox to play the power forward, and Swift could stay as the backup center. Perhaps we could get something decent back for Petro.

Alternatively, the Supes could trade Rashard for another draft pick and try to get either Conley or Brewer. But I'd really rather they try to win now, because with Oden they have a chance to do what the '95 Mariners did.

Anonymous said...

Even Oden would be too little, too late at this point.

The Sonics communicated to everyone what their long-term plans were during the 2006 NBA Draft. Portland traded into the draft, then traded up to land Brandon Roy at #6. Seattle stayed put at #10 and took M.S. Sene.

If the Sonics REALLY wanted to increase their winning percentage and ticket sales, they would've packaged the #10 pick and any combination of players other than Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Chris Wilcox in order to acquire hometown UW hero Brandon Roy. A starting lineup of Roy, Ray Ray, Rashard, and Wilcox would be a Phoenix-lite lower-tier playoff team.

But they took a pass, and the moment is gone. Goodnight, Seattle

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe the Wednesday night could be the last go-round for the Sonics in SEattle.

Anonymous said...

FYI, David STern is taking questions at espn.com. I've posted a question re Bennett's comments, but if more people ask him the same question, it obviously increases our odds at getting an answer re the future of the franchise in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

No next season will be the Sonics last.

Anonymous said...

I had a dream-- the kind you wake up and feel like it was real-- where the Sonics won the lotto and got Odom. I had already read the troubles in this post, but in my dream it wasn't an issue, and the team was in Seattle...

For the record, all indications are the Sonics did try to move up into the top 8 last year (where the fall off occured) but our standard of mediocrity put us on the outs and the cost was simply too high.

For all of Sund's errors, he hasn't gone the ATL/NY way of trading future (likely) lotto picks for current (hope of) success. For that I commend him. The tipping point could very well be this lotto pick and our winning it. The last time we had a top lotto pick, we netted GP and a dominance in the 90's. Odom could provide the same.

And if we do win his rights, the last thing the NBA wants to do is market a potential mega-superstar in OK City, and the buzz would be enough to keep the team here.

Also, I'm curious-- if OK City does get the team-- does the league require a name change or do they become the Jazz Misnomer Redux? I certainly hope they lose the name and our expansion team gets the Sonic name.

But it would be a shame for it to come to that, and I'm not ready to jump to conclusions on the political situation.

Anonymous said...

The writers from OK City obviously don't understand the process of filing for relocation. Since the deadline has already past for next season, the Sonics won't be leaving until next summer. So, be sure to go get those season tickets fast! (groan)

Anonymous said...

You're right, the Sonics have missed the deadline, and I could have sworn that Bennett and the Sonics' F.O. has publicly commented that the team will be here next year.

The 2 writers both commented that while all of the above is true, the NBA can always make something happen to circumvent the rule. After all, it's their rule, so if they don't feel like abiding by it, it's not as though they're violating a federal statute.

I disagree with their opinion, though, for the simple reasons that David Stern (1) doesn't want teams to move around the country and (2) doesn't want teams violating leases. To uninformed people across the country, it will play like Seattle is being stabbed in the back by the greedy NBA, and, more importantly, will make negotiations in other cities that much more difficult.

Anonymous said...

Frank Hughes said on KJR this AM that Bennett's group could work Stern hard to call an emergency NBA board of governors meeting to see if they can get relocation approved before the 2007 season. They will try to appeal to the idea that nobody - not the city, the ownership, the fans, the league or the players - benefits from a lame duck season. While Stern doesn't want to exactly encourage franchises to break leases and relocate, I completely agree with you there Nuss, this is a different deal in that the political climate has said no on 3 seperate occasions to the Sonics, and oh yeah, Stern and Bennett are buddies. OKC is suddenly wide open for a franchise. They will stand there, shrug their shoulders, rip the lack of leadership in Washington State, and back up the moving vans.

Sad as it is, seems like what Stern ultimately wants, Stern ultimately gets, so if he believes it's in everyone's best interest to just get them out of here now instead of the prolonged agony of a lame duck 07-08, well, he'll make it happen.

Sad to see one of the 8 NBA franchises with 40+ years of history ready to blow town for the dust bowl. Just, please, Bennett, leave the name, logo, colors and history behind and someday down the line they will rise again. Become the Oklahoma City Pioneers, with your own logo, new uni's, the whole works, but please at least show the fans some dignity in all this.

Anonymous said...

I still don't this is the end of the story. A lot of machinations will happen between now and the deadline of November 1, 2007. I believe that the legislature will take another look at this situation, perhaps private funding will come into play, and that - above all - Bennett knows the best thing is for him to stay here.

OKC is just not the best option, in that they're going to have to fork out $130 mill just to get their stadium ready to go. I would be more concerned about Vegas or Kansas City. Those are bigger media markets (than OKC< not Seattle) and are capable of making - or already have - an NBA-ready stadium.

Anonymous said...

Whoops. Meant to say "I still don't think this is ...."

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if we win the lotto--

can you forsee Greg Oden starting his career in OK City? How horrible would that be for marketing? How likely would he be to leave after his initial rookie contract?

It would absolutely destroy the city's fanbase to lose a player of that magnitude and for them to officially understand they are a have-not in regard to FA's and agents, and that is exactly what would happen if he doesn't go to a strong market-- Seattle being on the tail end of that, and OK City not even registering at all.

I just can't see it happening if we win the lotto, we win the player, and we win the franchise-- it'll stay here.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if we win the lotto--

can you forsee Greg Oden starting his career in OK City? How horrible would that be for marketing? How likely would he be to leave after his initial rookie contract?

It would absolutely destroy the city's fanbase to lose a player of that magnitude and for them to officially understand they are a have-not in regard to FA's and agents, and that is exactly what would happen if he doesn't go to a strong market-- Seattle being on the tail end of that, and OK City not even registering at all.

I just can't see it happening if we win the lotto, we win the player, and we win the franchise-- it'll stay here.

Nick Bob said...

I remember when the Seattle Pilots AL club began spring training in Arizona and left to start the season as the Milwaukee Brewers. Rules are made to be broken, and the NBA will decide to deal with the lame duck status of the Sonics in a fashion that makes business sense. They have plenty of time to make a settlement and skip town. This is Wally Walker's legacy. Sleezebag.

Anonymous said...

Okay people think about it... The seattle school district is having to close schools because there is not enough money in the budget. All the while there is talk of paying for a stadium that will be used by a PRIVATELY owned team, that can pay its players millions a year, from tax money !!! Where are your priorities - educating your kids or watching someone throw the ball around? Your child's teacher barely makes 40K a year and they are entrusted to shape your child's future and mind. I say extend the king county tax for additional 300 million, but use that money to fund the schools.

Anonymous said...

government waste,

There's only one problem with your logic:

Giving more tax dollars to Seattle schools has absolutely NO EFFECT whatsoever on educating our children. It's a fact. No amount of tax dollars going to Seattle Schools will increase the performance of those schools.

On the other hand, if we give the money to the Sonics we'll be able to SEE and USE the proceeds of the money - a new arena for Seattle.

Personally - I'd rather have the arena. I don't have kids, I probably never will, and I think giving more money to the bottomless pit that is the Seattle School District is absolutely insane.

I'd rather have something TANGIBLE for my tax dollars, be it a sculpture park for the homeless junkies or a basketball arena for a pathetic NBA Front Office. At least it would be SOMETHING!

I paid all that money for a Monorail, and I didn't get jack shit. Build me an arena in which I can drink beers and watch a crappy NBA team, and you'll have done more for me than any other project in the 6 years I've lived here!!

Anonymous said...

Government Waste:

I'm with you on not using public funds to build stadiums for private entities, but your argument is rhetoric and doesn't add anything to the discussion. The money being used for building the stadium doesn't come from general funds, it comes from taxes imposed on restaurants and car rentals, etc. It's not a case of this money being diverted from the school districts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the money is not coming from the goverment funds. But it is tax nonetheless. Tax that is collected by government agency.

But the bottom line is that why should tax money be used for a privately held entity? They can certainly afford to build their stadium. After look at the horrendous amounts of money they can afford to pay the players.

I am just saying that there should be no public funds used for a sports team. Doesn't matter if they are winning or losing games.

One reader above pointed out that no amount of money will make the school system better. That may or may not be true. But the school was just an example. How about paying the police officers more. They risk their lives to maintain civil law. Or how about universal healthcare or making sure our veterans how enough benefits, or how about a new City park, etc. Anything but waste in on a privately owned sports team.