For those wondering just how it feels to be on the receiving end of David Stern’s destructive manipulation, take a look at the above video, which chronicles the June 2007 implosion of the Charlotte Colisseum.
In the ensuing years since the Hornets moved to New Orleans (and Oklahoma City, and then New Orleans once again), Charlotte has gotten themselves a new team, seen that team hire a legend as general manager, then see that legend hire another legend as coach.
All the while, one aspect of being a Bobcat fan has not changed – the team’s about as interesting to watch as a Juwan Howard fast break opportunity. Charlotte’s recent winning skein notwithstanding, the Bobcats continue to live in that no man’s land between playoff contender and lottery regular, a land of Bucks, Clippers, and Kings, a land in which no fan wants to live.
In fact, the Bobcats have received more notoriety for their off-court action (or inaction) than for their on-court play. It’s no secret that owner Robert Johnson is looking to sell, and Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports commented that, “Several NBA executives laughed over Charlotte Bobcats owner Robert Johnson’s insistence … he has no interest in selling his failing franchise. Sources say that there have already been overtures made to prospective buyers in recent months.”
Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops knows how it looks from the outside, and he knows how it feels to be in Charlotte these days.
“People were angry that taxpayer money was used to build the new arena,” Hainline said. “People were frustrated by Johnson and the horrible television contracts the team played under the first few seasons. People were annoyed when Johnson chastised Charlotte business leaders for not doing enough to support the team last year.”
Hainline is right, the Bobcats’ original television package was probably the NBA’s worst, and kept a huge portion of the population from ever seeing a game. When combined with Johnson’s inability to sell naming rights to the building (only rectified this past spring), horrible attendance figures, and some of the lowest ticket prices, it was no surprise that the franchise was considered to be likely to leave town.
With a somewhat-improved team this season, and an improved TV package, one would think the Bobcats would be starting to see some better numbers in the bank account, but that’s not the case. According to a News Observer story Wednesday, the team’s ticket revenue is off 10 percent from last year, when it was already one of the worst in the league. Further, sponsorship revenue has not increased, which, as is the ticket revenue, is attributable as much to the miserable economy as it is to the team.
As Tom Sorensen’s amusing “Q & No A” with Johnson last October illustrates, the city is less than thrilled with his ownership of the team, and that irritation with Johnson, combined with the economy and Charlotte’s previous, failed, dalliance with the NBA, has created a perfect storm of disinterest.
That disinterest, mind you, is a breeding ground for relocation rumors, as any Sonic fan will attest. While it starts out as mild frustration, it can grow into flat-out hostility, and judging by the comments Bobcat fans make about Johnson, very little growth is needed for that hostility to blossom.
Still, what does that mean for Seattle? Are the Bobcats “in play?” And how does it feel in Charlotte knowing that your team is being bandied about?
“Every time I read an article/post/whatever suggesting that Seattle should just get the Bobcats, it makes me angry,” Hainline said. “This is my team and while some in the region have not fully accepted the team, I (and a growing number of others) have and I do not like the idea of them being taken from us.”
In the short term, it would appear unlikely that the Bobcats would be leaving town, but, hypothetically speaking, what if the team struggles on the court for the next two or three years? At that point, the lease becomes less prohibitive, and the timing would coincide quite nicely with a redeveloped KeyArena.
Just don’t expect Hainline to throw a party for Sonic fans when it happens.
“As for Seattle being ready to poach the Cats – I understand it and I can see how they would think that our losing the team would be less painful, with the shorter history.
“But I would boycott Seattle if it happened.”
Wednesday, January 28
Monday, January 26
In the ensuing half-year, discussion about NBA basketball in Seattle has focused upon renovations to KeyArena, motivating area politicians, and the neverending debate as to whether Danny Vranes’ skin was, in fact, so pale that it could be used in lieu of lighthouses on the Washington coastline.
Important machinations aside, little has been spent discussing just which team would inhabit the new arena supporters are intent on building. Commissioner David Stern has left no vocal chord untrembled in his confident assertions that expansion will not happen, leaving Seattle in the unenviable position of waiting for another city to suffer through what it just went through.
Like the family of a potential kidney recipient waiting for a donor, Seattlites are playing a ghoulish waiting game. We study the attendance figures in Memphis, read the tea leaves in New Orleans, and parse the words of Robert Johnson in Charlotte, attempting to decipher if one of those franchises will soon be partaking in David Stern’s perpetual game of musical franchises.
Left out of the conversation – as always – are the fans in those cities. Just as Seattle fans were belittled by the national media as unsupportive, Memphis and Charlotte fans hear the bells beginning to toll for them. Their lack of support for franchises in so much disarray it seems as if they are run by a consortium of schizophrenics has given the green light to speculation about relocation.
How do the fans of those teams feel about these rumors, though? Have they adopted the Nussbaum Style of Ignorance, wherein they ignore the talk and try to focus on the games? Do they believe that any of this is actually going to take place, that their team(s) will leave town, forcing them to engage in the pitiable self-flagellation seen so much from sites like, well, ours?
I decided to talk to those fans to get a feel for what they’re going through. After all, who better than a crusty, bitter old Sonic fan to gauge the feelings of other bitter NBA fans?
The New Orleans Hornets, more than any team perhaps, embody the vagabond nature of today’s NBA franchises. In the span of a decade the team has resided in no less than three cities, and its owner, George Shinn, shamelessly flirts with other cities like a trophy wife with the club tennis pro.
So it is no surprise to hear Seattle fans aim their sights at the Hornets as a tenant of the prospective new KeyArena. Sure, the Hornets are popular at the moment, but how does that stack up with the Saints, or high school football, or beignets?
“Everybody loves the Hornets,” says Niall Doherty, of Hornets 247. “They have a bunch of likable players, they do lots of good work in the community, Chris Paul can do no wrong, we've got the cheapest ticket prices in the NBA, and there's been plenty of winning since the team came back from [Oklahoma City].”
Doherty’s faith is well placed. With an attendance mark of near capacity, a team living in the penthouse of the Western Conference standings, and a superstar in Paul, the thought that the team is not long for the Crescent City – so prevalent less than 12 months ago – has disappeared more quickly than Mike Brown from George Bush’s rolodex.
Add in the fact that Shinn would have to pay minority owner Gary Chouest close to $100 million if the team moved, and the possibilities of seeing Chris Paul in a Sonics’ jersey grow slimmer still.
“I think the Hornets are New Orleans' team to lose,” Doherty explained. “If anyone in Seattle wants the Hornets, I say do what you gotta do. I can understand the desperation to get another team. I'm sure there were hoop heads in New Orleans licking their chops when the Hornets started wearing out their welcome in Charlotte. But the fate of the franchise is in our hands, not yours.”
NEXT: Charlotte, Memphis, and David Stern’s Brave New World
Wednesday, January 21
Tuesday, January 13
I don't think that will be a problem guys--Bennett and co. probably have no idea who you are!
Monday, January 12
I don't know how I missed this : The Poetry of Brent Barry.
(Thanks for the link, Eric!)
And if you're wondering about the picture of Brent Barry above, you should go here (scroll down to "Seattle Supersonics" video), and here, and here. God bless you, Wong Doody.
Friday, January 9
The Seattle P-I is being put up for sale, and if after 60 days it has not sold, it will either be turned into a Web-only publication or discontinued entirely.
"One thing is clear: at the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print," said Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.'s newspaper division.
Swartz addressed the P-I's newsroom at about noon Friday, flanked by P-I editor and publisher Roger Oglesby and Lincoln Millstein, Hearst's senior vice president for digital media.
As far as depressing local news goes, this ranks up there with the Sonics leaving town and the gutting of Ballard (Sunset Bowl, Denny's, etc). The P.I. is the oldest paper in town, the building is one of Seattle's few remaining icons, and for the past thirty years (!) they have employed my favorite sports writer. I mean, what the hell am I going to do without Art Thiel in the morning? I might have to actually interact with my children at breakfast!
Going to an online format to fix their money problems, though, is a brilliant idea. After all, the internet is PAVED WITH GOLD! We here at Supersonicsoul make MILLIONS OF DOLLARS every day! Right, Pete? Right? Hello?
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hug the Space Needle before they turn it into condos.
Thursday, January 8
KC is back, and not a moment too soon.
According to the Seattle Times, The Magic Carpet Ride will return to the airwaves on KIRO (or whatever the hell they're calling it now-a-days) for a daily sports show starting on April 1st. Let's pray this isn't some sort of cruel April Fool's prank.
Two thoughts crossed my mind on hearing the news of Petro’s trade:
Thought #1) Johan Petro’s teams, in his long and storied career as the French version of Caldwell Jones, have posted a won-loss record of 91-191. That’s a .320 winning percentage, which is a nice batting average for your third baseman, but a little less than what you’d hope for on the daily standings page.
Now? Well, now Johan is going to a team currently in first place in the Northwest Division, and in the top three in the entire conference. After spending his past three springs gallivanting in the Caribbean, Petro is going to learn the joys of not screwing up on national television.
And somewhere, Nick Collison is wondering just what in the hell he did in a former life to deserve this crap.
Thought #2) Has there been in NBA history, a player-coach combination more poorly suited for one another than George Karl and Johan Petro? Karl loves hard workers, gritty defenders, playmakers, and poorly designed mock turtlenecks, not necessarily in that order.
Petro, contrarily, is a 7-footer who has never especially enjoyed getting rebounds or blocking shots, and considering his favorite offensive move is a 12-foot jumper, he’s not exactly Moses Malone on offense, either. (Of note: Johan’s 0.5 blocks per 36 clocks in below former teammate Kyle Weaver’s 0.6. And, yes, Weaver is about 7 inches shorter than Petro).
Granted, Petro will be spending the majority of his time on le bench, but let’s ponder for a moment a hypothetical conversation at practice this May between the young center and his new coach:
Karl: Johan, dammit to hell, I told you to box out!
Petro: I was trying, monsieur, but my legs, they have the tiredness.
Karl: Ah, what the f@$!. I can’t believe I’ve got to deal with this s^#%. Johan, for the last time, this is the playoffs, you have to work harder!
Petro: Oui, mon capitan. I will, how do you say, give the 110 percentage from now on.
Karl: Johan, I don’t want the 110 percentage, I want your skinny French ass to plant itself in the key so that we’re not giving the Spurs seven chances to score every time down. Are you understanding this?
Petro: Certainment, monsieur. But le Duncan, he pushes with the strength of a thousand waves, and I am but a poor Caribbean boy trying to withstand it.
Karl: Oh, for the love of Christ! Somebody call Ervin Johnson. His 100-year-old legs would still be better than this crap.
Or something like that, anyways.
Wednesday, January 7
And, on a side note, a look at how the league's attendance played out as the season progressed. There was talk earlier in the year that the low attendance numbers were more indicative of the time of the year than they were of any problems in NBA popularity. There might be some validity to that argument.
Tuesday, January 6
Translation to Sonic supporters: No soup for you.
It’s not quite that dire, but when the liberal governor of a left-wing state calls for a quarter-million reduction in health care expenditures and skips pay raises for teachers, even an out-of-shape Danny Fortson could stretch to the conclusion that it will be extremely difficult to get any arena proposals through the legislature this session.
As Chris McGann quotes a Gregoire aide, “That November [economic] forecast kind of changed the game.” Which is to say, the governor was all for spending money on the stuff her constituents wanted, back when she felt she had the dough on hand.
Now that the state’s revenue forecast has dropped by nearly two billion bucks? Not so much.
In fact, it doesn’t take much of an analyst to see just how tough it’s going to be to get any money this year. The governor will tell you herself:
“The state must squeeze every ounce of value out of every taxpayer dollar while maintaining our priorities of protecting families and kids the best we can.”
The argument as to whether funding arenas pay for themselves or whether they are hopeless boondoggles that primarily benefit billionaires is for another day. The primary message you should get from these words is this: Opponents of any KeyArena proposal are going to have very easy sledding this coming year. When times are tough and budgets are being cut, even the most inept politician is savvy enough to realize that taking a stand against arenas and stadiums is an easy political win.
It would appear that the arena’s only hope is to be presented as a work project which would bring jobs in the short-term, and economic benefit in the long-term, which is what Brian Robinson at Save Our Sonics has been saying all along. Whether that message will gain traction in an icy legislative environment remains to be seen.
From the Associated Press:
"Tom Ward, the chief executive officer of SandRidge Energy Inc., has sold 8.9 million shares of his common stock in the company to Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser. ... Kaiser bought the 8.9 million shares for $50 million, or $5.62 per share."
How bad of a deal was that for Mr. Ward? Well, consider this additional piece of information, from June 2008:
"President and CEO Tom Ward purchased 460,000 shares at $48.95 on May 19th/20th, which increased his already substantial holdings to nearly 36.95 million shares, or a 25.27% stake. ... His only other open-market purchase came in November 2007, when he took down 4.17 million shares at $26.00 in the company's initial public offering."
Let's look at those two purchases and sales:
1. 460,000 shares @ $48.95 a pop: $22.5 million
2. 4.17 million shares @ $26.00 a pop: $108.4 million
Total value: $130.9 million
And, after the sale yesterday:
1. 460,000 shares @ $5.62 a pop: $2.6 million
2. 4.17 million shares @ $5.62 a pop: $23.4 million
Total return: $26 million
I'm no math wizard, but that's a $104.9 million loss Tom Ward just took yesterday, not to mention the fact he just gave up a heckuva lot of control in his own company.
Geez, I can't imagine why Ward would be needing a wack of cash ....
Monday, January 5
Ask that same group the worst year in team history, though, and you’ll receive one answer: 2008.
And so, dear readers, we are left to reflect upon a year of melancholy, bitterness, vitriol, and more homoerotic jokes involving David Stern and Clay Bennett than I care to remember.
It begs the question: Where do we go from here? What is the point of a website devoted to a team which no longer exists? Are we to become the 21st century version of Horse & Buggy Weekly or Typewriter Monthly?
A new year means resolutions, whether of a dietary nature, attitudinal, or what have you. A resolution, in and of itself, is a reflective gesture, as by definition it is a response to events which preceded it. A vow to lose weight is precipitated by a year’s worth of poor eating habits. A promise to appreciate one’s spouse implies the lack of appreciation in the previous year.
Likewise, any resolutions your faithful narrator embarks upon this January come shackled to failings from 2008, and, like any good relapsed Catholic, it is never difficult for me to find failings in my actions.
First, I resolve to tone down the anger a few notches. In Lieve Joris’ The Rebels’ Hour, her Congolese subject, Assani, reflects on the contrast between his mindset and that of his colleagues. While they were always optimistic about future activities, he was skeptical. The difference being, of course, that he was prepared for disappointment, while they were blindsided by it.
I think a bit of skepticism in this situation is fitting. My disgust at David Stern for the past 12 months is rooted in my belief that he is a good and honest man, but why should I expect that of him, any more than I should expect it of any person in power? Stern is going to do what’s best for Stern, and what’s best for him is what’s best for his ownership cartel. The fact that he’s a manipulative con artist is just part of the deal, and getting angry about it is as productive as using a paper towel to mop up a flood in your basement.
That’s not to say that I won’t continue to point out what’s happening league-wide with attendance, or television ratings. As I see it, no one else is talking about it, so what does it hurt if I do? But, rather than get worked up to a Dennis Green-like level by it, I’ll try to maintain some sense of decorum.
We’ll see how long this resolution sticks, and if I fall off the rails in mid-February after a David Stern press conference, feel free to castigate me in the comments.
My next, and final, resolution is to attempt to paint some better pictures of Sonics from the past. Not necessarily the Sonics everyone knows about, Haywood, Sikma, McDaniel, and so forth, but people such as Art Harris, or Bob Rule, or Tommy Kron, men who made an impact on Sonic basketball, then disappeared into the mists. A collection of stories – both on- and off-court – would make for a nice chapter in the history of the team. I’m not saying it makes up for not having an actual on-court product to root for, but it does put some salve on the wound as it were.
So there you are, two resolutions for SuperSonicSoul’s resident curmudgeon: A sunnier disposition and the capacity to remember the past.
And, perhaps, a steel girder to fall on Clay Bennett’s car in the Ford Center parking lot. That wouldn’t be so bad, either.