This Thursday, arguments between the City of Seattle and the Sonics come to a close, and the decision as to whether the team remains in Seattle for the foreseeable future falls into the hands of Judge Marsha Pechman.
There are other factors involved – will the city appeal a verdict and thereby postpone the movement, will Howard Schultz’ pending lawsuit delay relocation, will Clay Bennett staple Aubrey McClendon’s mouth shut, and so forth – but this Thursday is obviously a large step in the future of the team.
Sadly, it is entirely possible Pechman will rule for the team. Observers indicate the city failed to effectively persuade an impartial observer the Sonics provide intangible benefits to the region. Further, the now-infamous “Poisoned Well” PowerPoint file – created with the best of intentions to help keep the team – may wind up being yet another impediment to that goal.
All of this is for the judge to decide. And while my influence over her decision is equivalent to my influence over PJ Carlesimo’s roster decisions, allow me to make one argument:
Allowing Clay Bennett to walk away with the Sonics would be a disgrace.
Set aside the legal arguments for a moment, and approach this situation from a viewpoint a mile up into the clouds. Bennett bought this team with two partners with the intention of moving it to Oklahoma City. Only a naive person would believe otherwise.
At all forks in the road, Bennett and his group have consistently opted to take the path which hastened the team’s departure from Seattle.
Present a half-baked proposal to the legislature? Check.
Gut the team’s roster to save money? Check.
Repeatedly make comments indicating your intentions to move? Check.
Work in coordination with Oklahoma City to move while simultaneously telling Seattlites you’re a “man possessed” to keep the team here? Check.
Apply to the NBA to move a full year ago? Check.
In all instances, in all aspects, Bennett has lied, deceived, extorted and manipulated, all with the knowledge and willing participation of David Stern and the NBA. If the ongoing trial was an argument over whether Bennett’s group is pack of despicable liars with the moral authority of a Capitol Hill lobbyist, Pechman would have ruled for the city five minutes after opening arguments concluded.
Yes, Bennett has a legal argument the city worked hand-in-glove with local businessmen to forestall his departure. Yes, Bennett may be correct that the team would be sufficiently satisfying the remaining two years of its lease with a cash settlement.
But this case is a mirror upon one of the greatest ills of American society circa 2008 – the patronizing way in which the general public is treated by those in power. When faced with a housing crisis, the Washington power-brokers quickly acted to aid those making the bad loans, while ignoring those who were truly suffering. Opinion polls routinely show an American public completely and utterly sick of Washington, and a hopeless feeling spreads across the land like a case of West Nile Virus run rampant.
I understand Judge Pechman’s ruling will do little to remedy those problems. But still, would it not be nice, for once, to see the manipulative David Stern be forced to swallow a dose of medicine? Would it not be satisfying to watch Clay “The Extortionist” Bennett crawl back to Oklahoma City and admit defeat?
The evidence in this case is far from overwhelming for either side. For once, just once, let us hope the general public gets a chance to feel what it’s like to be a winner.