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