Well, not for a year, anyway.
Judge Marsha Pechman made her ruling Tuesday, denying the Sonics' motion to have the financial aspect of the upcoming trial decided simultanesouly with the outcome of the trial itself.
Instead, as the city requested, the determination of how much money the Sonics would owe the city -IF they even won the trial, which is a hefty, Jerome James-sized IF - will be determined at a separate trial.
Meaning? Meaning that their are a couple of options on the table now:
1. Sonics win trial, wait a few months to settle the financials, wait for the inevitable appeal from the city. Team plays 2008-09 season in Seattle.
2. Seattle wins trial. Team plays 2008-09 season and 2009-10 seasons in Seattle.
And so, it appears the only avenue available to Clay Bennett and David Stern for playing the upcoming season in Oklahoma City would be if they can dangle enough money in front of the city council to get them to agree on a buyout of the remaining two years of the lease.
I'm not sure what's less likely than slim and none, but a buyout is right there.
In other words, national media, quit saying the Sonics are as good as gone. I understand, you can't comprehend that a city would stand up to a professional sports team, quite frankly, I'm surprised myself. It just doesn't happen all that often. That said, I'll spell it out as easily as I can:
The Sonics will not be playing in Oklahoma City next season.
And somewhere in a dust-filled parking lot, Clay Bennett just punched his car.