Saturday, June 30, 2007

Are They Just Going to Leave Town?

You look at a picture like that, you hope they aren't just going to follow Clay-Clay out of town.

I think Frank Hughes, as usual, said it best today:

"Is it worthwhile to get emotionally involved with something that you know may be unapologetically torn from your grasp in a short, finite period?"

These are some weird times for lifelong Sonics fans. I mean you want to let yourself get into the moves, think about how they could be a nightmare match-up if they keep Rashard and roll him out with KD and Green, all 6-8 to 6-10 guys that can score from multiple spots on the floor.

Further, I'm going to miss Ray-Ray, but let's be honest. He is on the downslope of his career, I don't care what he or anyone else says. The double ankle surgery is troubling to say the least, and while he's in amazing shape and not likely to get fat ala Mitch Richmond, you still have to consider his health as time goes forward. And there are also things to consider, like shots and touches for the "NEXT" great one in KD, and if Ray was on the team still, would he share the ball with the teenage superstar? Or would he be jealous? Like Ray or hate him, he's a player that demands a lot of shots. That's sure to have been a consideration for Presti in thinking about Durant and how those 2 would co-exist.

But that dead moose in the room is the arena issue that just won't get out of your head. I hope the Muckleshoots stuff comes to fruition. I had a good talk with a friend of mine at work on Friday, and this is what we think:

1) Was this a good basketball move? We think so. They are trading Ray-Ray at just the right time. Next year at this time, to think they could get the #5 pick, a servicable combo guard and a solid bench guy in Wally for Ray Allen and a 2nd rounder? I highly doubt it. The Sonics are dying for some size and defense in the backcourt, and if they have West play a lot at the 1, they have just that. Sort of an Antonio Daniels-type presence back there, and he can score a little bit too. In fact, Supersonicsoul's Nussbaum had a decent little top-10 list about West that might interest you. In a nutshell, he's much, MUCH better than Earl or Ridnour, and probably fits the Presti vision of team-first defense better than we can even fathom. Funny as it sounds, West might have been the key to this whole deal.

Jeff Green is an interesting player. Not a spectacular high-flyer that fills Sportscenter reels, he's just a very sound player regarded as an outstanding team-first guy who can play multiple positions, is smart, plays excellent defense and is a really good passer. In Presti's view, he might be the absolute perfect fit with Durant, plus the two have been friends for a few years playing hoops in DC.

2) Or was this just a slash-n-burn to the payroll, and Clay-Clay will gladly let Rashard walk? That might be the biggest indication yet. IF the Sonics actually bring back Rashard, that shows that the move to trade away Ray was made more for basketball decisions and they could put a very interesting product on the floor next year. But if Rashard flees and they don't do anything to replace him, such as letting him walk sans a sign-and-trade? That's really, really, really bad news.

Why? Several reasons really, but here's the big conspiracy in all this. I hate to turn this into a will they stay or go deal, but, it has to be addressed. Clay is set to lose TONS of money over the next several years. It's actually hard to grasp just how much, but it's staggering. Think of the math in these terms:

- He paid $350 million for a team that was worth by some estimates to be in the low-200 million mark. Instant loss right off the top of at least $100 million.

- If he ever gets his pie-in-the-sky arena (he won't), well, guess what? It will be years before the building is ready. As in, 2010 most likely. You know what the means? That means 07-08, 08-09, and 09-10 will be seasons played in the same lousy Key Arena, where they claim to be losing between $10 to even $20 million a year?

- If he gets his dream and the NBA lets him bail for OKC, well, the streets aren't exactly lined with gold either. There's the little issue of relocation fees, which, according to who you read, the word is that it's at LEAST $50 million to get into the room, and some speculate that the NBA fee would be closer to $60 million when it's all said and done. OUCH. The NBA will want to make him pay dearly for trading in a market for another that's at least 30 notches below Seattle, and breaking a lease in the process, something that's frowned upon and is really BAD for the sport, period. That's cash, all up front.

- And, of course, it's not just the relocation fee, but there's the other little matter of the Key Arena lease, which according to's Brian Robinson, is seriously strong and is going to be difficult to break. In fact, the language of the lease clearly states that the Mayor's office can demand the lease be honored until the end. So if Clay-Clay tries to buy out the last couple of years, it's going to be a very pretty penny to get out. The city will also want to recoup damages from all the revenue that disappears for local businesses, and I think Frank Hughes once speculated that the city might get as much as $40 million out of him if he leaves early.

- Finally, if he does end up in OKC, he's going to continue to lose money! This is what's lost on a lot of people in how short-sighted the whole thing is. He has already stated in his wife's newspaper that Ford Center is not up to NBA standards and can't sustain long-term success, and will need the extra luxury suites, premium seats, etc, to get the higher revenues. So in the short-term, he'd be dealing with a building just like Key Arena. Granted the fight to get that extra stuff will be a lot easier on his home turf, and the city would probably give him a blank check based on the civic gift he's giving them, but still, he's in for more losses even when he gets home.

See where all this is going?? The man is losing cash with every breath he takes, and it's not going to end anytime soon. In the end, he can't win.

Here's what we think IS going to happen.

1) Later this summer, maybe September or even early October, the Muckleshoots come out with a great arena plan. It will involve very little public money, in fact in one interview on KJR a rep said that the public will have zero involvement with the land or the arena itself, and the only thing they will need to do is help pay for freeway access improvements around the arena, which will be easily swallowed by the most spineless politicians.
2) Bennett will reject the proposal, citing the distance from downtown Seattle and his seasonticket base in Bellevue and north as too far of a drive. Of course he'll ignore the fact that the 24 miles from Seattle is actually less than the Palace at Auburn Hills, and it's working just fine for Detroit, but that will be his way out. At least he THINKS that will be the way out!
3) He will apply for relocation at 12:01 on 10/31, and ask for the vote to be "fast tracked" by the board of governors so he can begin preparing for the move the day the 07-08 season is over.
4) David Stern will look at the Muckleshoot proposal and realize that it's in the best interest of HIS LEAGUE, of David Stern himself, to keep the team in the region. And, as he's said before, if a feasible arena situation emerges, he won't let the team move. Stern will advise the governors to vote NO on the move, and of course, they'll follow his lead and the request will be rejected.
5) This is where it could be ugly for Clay-Clay. At that point he'll have two choices. Door #1 is accept the Muckleshoots deal, the team stays here and that's it. He then asks the city for some relief on the lease, hoping to ease the pain over the last few years he's in the Key before moving to Auburn. He then cuts his losses and sells to a local ownership group led by David Sabey, and there are already rumors that Sabey is putting together a group right now, and some even speculated that Sabey's already made an offer to buy the team from Bennett.

Door #2 is an uglier option for Bennett. Stern demands he stay in the region, or else sell and get the hell out of the way. Stern and the NBA then does their own search and brokers a deal with the Sabey ownership group, he sets the price and the terms, and Clay-Clay goes home with his tail between his legs.

Now what will happen? Who knows. Maybe Bennett has been prepared to lose hundreds of millions this whole time and this is going down just as he predicted. Maybe he's going to recoup those losses from under the table deals in OKC when he brings the team "home". Or, maybe he's just so fed up with the whole thing and deep down knows that he can't win no matter what and just wants to stop the bleeding. All I know is it's going to be a very interesting next few months!


Anonymous said...

You are the greatest sports writer ever....seriously...

I am on vaca in FLA...sorry I missed your call pre-draft...funny story to go with that...

Will try to give you a call in the next couple of days...time difference has been messing with my ability to find a good time to call.

Great work as always..what an amazing couple of days!

Sedihawk said...

Hope you are having fun in South Beach! Lots of eye candy eh?

The other thing to consider with Stern and the NBA. Uh, have you seen the ratings for the Finals?? David Hasselhoff's America's Got Talent beat the Spurs and Cavs. The league might be full of stars, but right now they have some real issues. Do they want to risk alienating a large NBA fan base in the NW just to placate the ego of one man? And what kind of pandora's box might be opened if Bennett is allowed to bolt out of a lease early, in a market with over 40 years of history, and especially if the Muckleshoot option is sitting there?? What kind of message does it send to the other owners if they allow this move to happen? "Sure, you've got a lease and you are in an established market, but I know you feel like moving the team to your hometown, so go right ahead!?!?" It's never really made sense from the beginning.

But hey, it's sports, and you can throw logic out the window in situations like this. It's not always about the money in the end. If it was, would the Rams have ever fled the LA market for St. Louis?? Ah well. It's going to be a long summer full of speculation.