Friday, April 18, 2008

Bad Day for Seattle...or is it?

So David Stern helped his glutenous, disgusting, lying friend out and he has the NBA approval to take his team home. No surprise. And the state leaders are ripping the decision, from the mayor to the governor to the US senators, to Oklahoma City.

Hang on a second. Oklahoma City? Didn't they just WIN the NBA, in one way or another? Well, be careful what you wish for. As Deadspin reported yesterday, Clay Bennett is an equal opportunity A-HOLE, including to his own homies:

"Rep. Charlie Joyner, R-Midwest City, who also voted against the bill, said he received an e-mail from Bennett that said the team might not come to Oklahoma City unless the House passes the tax incentive. "I just don't think this thing has been handled right. That's kind of holding legislators hostage," Joyner said."

He's quite a guy, that Bennett. The definition of crap with feet. Simultaneously trying to screw two cities at the same time? That's pretty unbelievable. Be careful what you wish for, Okies, because you are getting ALL Clay-Clay, 24/7.

I know, this thing isn't over obviously. The courts will have the final say, and the mayor and others sound pretty determined to fight like hell. But overall, I guess I'm just sad with today's news. Why? Well, the NBA has said Seattle is no longer good enough to be in the club. That just kind of hurts more than anything else. What's also sad is that the NBA owners are simply looking out for their own asses. For some strange reason, I hoped they would come to their senses and realize how dumb this is, and either delay the vote or pipe-dream city, turn down the request. At least Paul Allen and Mark Cuban didn't follow along like the rest of the sheep. But they voted for this because they want to have the ability to move themselves if/WHEN things get even worse in their own situations. They don't care about how great a city Seattle really is for the NBA. The media market, the gateway to Asia, the wealth and high level of education, the 41 years of NBA history, they just don't care. They only want the threat to play hardball with their own politicians. Having the Sonics leave Seattle does more to help their own cause.

We'll see what happens. But let's not kid ourselves. Everyone and everything has a price. If the right number is floated to the mayor, who knows? A dollar figure that would pay off the remaining Key debt and ease the pain of a tenant bailing out might be pretty hard to turn down. They do have leverage here, and Bennett and the league are going to be chomping at the bit to get a settlement that allows them to leave. If that settlement includes a promise of an expansion team and helps pay for the cost to redo the Key? That would be hard to ignore.

But bottom line, if the league is this stupid and arrogant, willing to bail on a city like this? Willing to inflict this much damage on the ticket-buying fans? Good riddance. If the relationship has to end, there might not be a better time to pull the plug! The NBA has some serious issues right now, with teams losing money, the league is still haunted by the Pistons-Pacers brawl, an NBA ref was possibly fixing games, on and on it goes. And we still have a lot to care about around here in the fantasy world of sports. The Cougs are our Cougs, on the hardwood and the football field, and we have a lot to feel good about in the coming years with Wulff and Bennett. The Seahawks and M's are thriving franchises with excellent ownership and great stadiums. We'll live without the NBA.


Tiltingright said...

The Sonics are gone, and while it's sad to see them go, I say "good riddance" to the NBA. Stern is SUCH an arrogant A-hole that I don't know who I want to pee on worse, him or Clay.

I say screw the NBA. Get a number that'll pay off the debt on Key Arena, refurbish it and get more concerts and some NCAA playoff games. Maybe even the NHL.

The NBA owners can divvy up the ca$h they're making from the Oklahoma City media market, instead of Seattle's.

Anonymous said...

You are right Tilting. Stern is a prick. and Bennett wanted so badly to make this thing work in OKC that they did everything possible to make it so. Pretend you want an arena when you really don't? Check. Trade away any semblance of successful NBA vets so the team racks up the losses and apathy? Check. Every move they made was predicated towards getting to this day. I hope the threat of the court case simply ups the number the city gets for that big check. But the pressure is going to mount from city council leaders to take the money while it's sitting there.

DowntownFreddieBrown said...

longball said...

The Sonics clusterf-ck and the NBA in general provide about 5000 of the 10,000 reasons college sports are much much better than the Pro's.

Σ (FormerlyKnownAsBrinkHater) said...

The strategy at this point is simple: WIN the first court case, then they MUST pass the 75 mill in the next legistlative session. THEN, they must have something else come in from the anti-trust angle and THEN maybe they stay.

But, we are NOT getting a franchise until the arena deal is done. So, we've got to win the court case and NOT settle. Otherwise, we never get the Supes back

Sedihawk said...

I guess we'll find out how badly the Seattle leadership wants the NBA. Right now it's pretty obvious that the league is banded against the Seattle leadership. 28-2 is pretty strong. It appears the only way to get the NBA back in the future is if they play ball and settle this thing. If you think about it, if they hold to this court case and make them play in Seattle to bleed them for a couple of years? You can forget about the NBA ever coming back. I know money talks, and an ownership group of Ballmer plus a new building would be overwhelmingly attractive for expansion or an established team, but the ill will could trump everything else.

You can see the dissention already in the Seattle ranks. Sims and Von Reichbauer are already saying that we need to reach a Cleveland Browns-style deal. That's the thing here is that Seattle still has a very strong hand to force an incredibly favorable settlement. They can threaten all the way up to the steps of the courthouse, then at the last second, turn to Bennett and the NBA and tell them to make their best offer on the spot. By then sweat will be pouring down their fat faces and they'll be happy to write a $75 million dollar check to avoid the embarrassment, plus guarantee a franchise in one form or another as soon as the Key is remodeled! That's the best play at this point. Talk tough, hold out until the end, then let it go. Because the ultimate reality here is that if they win the court case, as they likely will, two years of lame duck status hurts everyone. It prolongs the pain for Sonics fans, it prolongs the losses for Bennett and the NBA, and it causes major harm to the NBA's desire to have a team in Seattle in the future. With attendance that will be woeful at best, the city will lose overall based on less feet in Queen Anne on game nights = less tax revenue they generate at bars, restaurants, and parking. EVERYONE LOSES WITH 2 YEARS OF LAME DUCK.

I guess the only other shining light here is the strength of the Schultz case, which hasn't yet been filed. That could be one of the reasons the city is talking so strongly about court, mainly because they know they have a strong case, but it also runs interference with the Schultz case as well. The double major lawsuits could really cause the NBA to up their ante on a deal as well, to not just write a huge check but to get some sort of binding guarantee the NBA will be back.

I know Slade Gorton has been there, done it with fighting pro sports for our region. It's 100% clear that without his tough talk and actions, we very well would have lost both MLB and the NFL. He's a smart dude and clearly has Stern's attention. Stern mentioned him by name about 5 times yesterday, so you know as arrogant as Little Napoleon is, he's also very aware of Gorton and has to be concerned what's in the bag of tricks. Gorton could be preparing a case that is overwhelmingly bad for the NBA and that has to be a concern. Hell, he might make it so bad that the entire league ends up on captial hill with Cantwell and Murray leading the charge. Who knows what is going to happen with him involved. He did sue MLB to get the M's. Maybe he'll do the same to the NBA.

Anyway, I was fully on board with scorching the earth and making these morons bleed, but I'm now leaning towards the bigger picture of whether or not we ever want the NBA back. IF we really do want it, then settle this thing, get the arena done the right way, and it will come back. It's too great a market to not have a team. If we don't want it, then bleed 'em dry. After they leave in 2010, just have the Storm as the major tenant with NCAA hoops playing a handful of games there, as well as some NCAA regional tourney games, something like that.

Anonymous said...

SETTLE, SETTLE, SETTLE. There is no other way.

Bennett and NBA buyout Key Arena lease for $75mm and get to move the team to OKC this year. The city uses that $75mm in addition to Ballmer plan to renovate Key Arena and are guaranteed an expansion team in 2010, or whenever Key Arena remodel is complete.

The more you look at it and read between the lines, this makes the most sense for everyone. Both sides have the ability to give the other party something that they want.

Why it makes sense for Bennett:

1) He gets to move the team next year and not go to trial. In addition, paying $75mm now is very close to the loses he would accrue over 2 years in Seattle. By paying $75mm now and moving to OKC, he would be in a better position financially in two years than he would be if he stayed here.

Why it makes sense for the NBA:

1) They save face BIG TIME in the PR department, and they do not run the risk of having to turn over all of their financial documents. In addition, they receive the benefit of a $350 - $400mm expansion team fee.

Why it makes sense for Seattle (some will disagree):

1) Receive an additional $75mm, and do not have to workwith/rely on funds from the State. Ballmer plan all along was not exclusive of this team. They stated that they did not want to see Key Arena go without a tenant. I do not believe they are overly concerned with whether it is Kevin Durant or the next young phenom.

Evidence from reading between the lines as to why I believe this is possible:

When emotions have cooled a bit, go back and read Stern and Bennett's comments as objectively as possible. Look for opportunities where they could either say "expansion is 100% not an option" or "Key Arena remodel WILL NEVER WORK". Stern avoids that type of response FIVE TIMES, all while saying his door is open for communication the entire time. His whole message is a plea to try to communicate or open up the lines of communication.

In addition, the last thing Stern states is that he would like to make as many people happy as possible in this situation. In the situation above, everyone compromises a little bit, but NO ONE gets royally screwed.

Does anyone think that Bennett would really turn down a $75mm buyout that would allow the team to move now and avoid trial? NO WAY IN HELL. Pretty basic net present value analysis would show that 2 years of $30mm plus losses in Seattle plus $2 years of potential profits in Seattle would be far greater and way less messier than forking out $75mm today.

Does anyone really think that Seattle could turn down a $75mm check and a guaranteed expansion team that guarantees that Seattle Center will remain economically viable for years to come? I believe that is the end goal in all of the cities negotiations, to have SOME team here.

Does anyone believe that the NBA would give up the opportunity to save face from a PR standpoint, make Clay Bennett happy, make Seattle happy, have 2 brand new arenas, and receive $400mm in proceeds from an expansion team?

Stern and the NBA do not want to leave Seattle, he just can not publicly say that because that would be turning his back on one of his own who has represented him well for the last 15 years.

Everyone involved knows that if the NBA leaves and goes any period of time without a guarantee that they are returning, it is worthless to try to come back because too many bridges will be burned. If they left for two years and we knew all along that a franchise would come, I think it would be more than possible for most of us to eventually get back on the wagon.

None of these are bad consolation prizes. They make everyone happy and cooler heads would prevail. Who could honestly complain about that?

Yes I want this team too, but I would like to be able to look back in five years and have something to show for it and share a bond with all passionate Sonics fans knowing that we fought and we got something out of all our struggles, more than just our hearts ripped out. I'd be curious to know how Cleveland Browns / Charlotte Bobcats fans feel a couple years after they got a new team.

If I am the Mayor I read Stern's press conference and offer this to him. All sides would be crazy not to listen. Get Bennett, Ballmer, Nickels, and Stern in one room and hammer this out!

Anonymous said...

Bring on the NHL!!

Tiltingright said...

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the NBA in general (I don't like the shorter shot clock and think it's more about individuals, and less about teams), so my glasses are clouded when I say again, "Screw the NBA."

I'd rather see the NHL, NCAA or even roller derby in the Key than the NBA.

All that being said, if we do get another team (because this one's moving truck is loaded and warming up), we'll probably have to name it the Seattle Slade Gortons to do that man justice.

DowntownFreddieBrown said...

Everyone needs to take a chill pill. The BOG vote was expected but it doesn't change the facts in this case.

Bennett says he did “everything I knew how” to get an arena solution in Seattle, but these funny little things called facts get in the way of lies. For example:

He quit - PUBLICLY - after 6 months although contructually required to give 12 months best efforts. After the legislative session ended in spring of '07 without his palace, he issued a press release that they will file for relocation on 11/1/07. That was only 6 months after they officially owned the team, which was as of 10/31/06, so it wasn't anywhere close to 12 months.

Speaking of Renton, Bennett never actually owned the land down there. He never even had an option to buy it finalized, and wasn't even close. Why? He knew the proposal wouldn't fly, so why spend one dime for a valuable piece of property he didn't even want? If it did somehow pass Bennett was going to buy the land and then immediately try to sell the team so they could make their profit and go try and steal from another city. The Sonics with a $500 million dollar building would be worth even more than the $350m they paid.

“The arena design” was a phony. The sketch was only updated from the previous HOK architectual work on the Pepsi Center in Denver and the proposal for a new Orlando arena. There was absolutely nothing original about it and thus the cost of floating it was almost nil.

Bennett's group never engaged the city of Renton on any specifics whatsoever, related to design, permitting, traffic, etc. Margarita Prentice of Renton tried to talk to them but they said "we can sort that out at a future meeting after the arena passes." Some say the vague-ness of the proposal is the main reason it never made it off the floor of the house anyway, and that was by Bennett's design.

Bennett never made anything but cloudy, misleading statements about how much his group would actually contribute to the project. Some legislators tried to get him to put how much he would contribute in writing so they would at least seriously consider it, but he wouldn't do it, citing various, vague reasons that people still don't understand.

He didn’t pursue any alternative sites beyond introductory meetings with the Muckleshoots or David Sabey. But he only did those for the sake of making an appearance.

He refused to meet the Mayor of Seattle to discuss anything except a lease buyout. Remember when Nickels a year ago at this time was quoted as saying "save your money on jet fuel" about Bennett coming out to engage with Nickels? It is because well before the clock struck 12 months in this thing, Bennett was already working as hard as he could to get out and wouldn't discuss the Key remodel.

And of course we already have seen the BS e-mails about how they were dying to get out of here from the beginning. In fact two weeks after the sale agreement was announced, in August of '06, are the first e-mails saying how they didn't want to own a team in Seattle. Then you have Clay's e-mails later in early '07, Aubrey McClendon's $250K f*ck-up to a reporter about never wanting it in Seattle, etc, etc, etc.

HE DID NOT MAKE A GOOD FAITH, BEST EFFORT, in any possible way you slice it. But that will be for the courts and a jury to decide. Facts are a bitch when they go against you. This is not some press conference that you can blow off or dance around uncomfortable questions. This is under oath being forced to answer the really tough questions with a mountain of proof in your face.

The Schultz lawsuit will be filed this week, probably on Friday, or possibly Monday of the following week. But it will be filed. And do not pay attention to columnists who insist it is time to settle. They don't know anything about the law. We cannot comprehend just how much information Gorton and Schultz really have on these slimy bastards. This is the tip of the iceberg. Gorton and Nickels are holding the hammer and David Stern is all too aware about who Gorton is and his track record. Just remember, once Gorton finally dragged the MLB into court, it took all of 72 hours to get a 100% guarantee that they would get an expansion team once the Kingdome was constructed. And most of all, remember exactly what Gorton has been saying since the Ballmer group was presented to the public. This public/private deal is for the Sonics OR ANOTHER NBA team, either an existing franchise or expansion. They have never really wavered from that position. The emphasis is strongly on this team, but they still refer to the NBA on a greater whole vs. the Bennett franchise.

Gorton has been there, done it, and as angry as people are at Stern, he isn't a complete idiot. Stern will back down at the last second. They do not want to go to court. They have dirty laundry within every franchise and they do not want it aired in full public view. This isn't just specific to the NBA either folks. MLB, NFL, NCAA, all these leagues or organizations have seriously ugly, stinking, disgusting laundry that the public really should not hear about.

The NBA at the end will settle this thing. In exchange for Seattle releasing the Bennett franchise from the lease for a huge check ($75m? $100m?), the NBA will give an iron-clad guarantee of a return of a team in one form or another once Key Arena is renovated to NBA specifications and a local ownership group is at the table. It may or may not be expansion. The Hornets have an escape clause after 2009 in their lease. The Grizzlies are a disaster and while they have a lease through 2014, there are already rumors of them being able to get out of it early and Memphis would welcome it for a reasonable price. And Heisley has already officially put the team up for sale this spring. There will be other franchises on life support in a couple of years and Seattle could be in a position to pick from a few options. I hope it is expansion personally as you are given the #1 pick your first year and guaranteed in the lottery to pick no lower than #3 the following year. That is what these current Sonics are anyway!


g-man said...

There is NOTHING wrong with KeyArena as is. If Bennett takes his team away that is his choice. If someone else wants to come here and play great. However pouring $150,000,000 into a 12 year old building a massive waste of public funds. Seattle manage to survive without the NBA. We will have to turn into a backwater burg like San Diego or San Francisco...oh the horror

Tiltingright said...


I agree that all this stuff stacks up against Clay. I knew (as I'm sure you did) the day he bought the team he had no intention of keeping the team here.

The most likely scenario if Seattle and Schultz win their cases though, is money for Seattle, and money for Schultz, and the Sonics moving to OKC.

My disdain for the NBA in this case is because all of the owners want to leverage the threat of moving to get the things they want, and so are willing to let a team with 40+ years of history leave a large market for a TINY one. In addition, they know all the same information we do (that Bennett lied through his teeth the whole time) and still voted to allow him to move his team.

I recognize all pro sports are businesses. They have to make money. But in sports, it's not JUST business that should determine these type of things. Even if they bribed us with another expansion team, they're still a bunch of scumbags, who care nothing about the game, but only the bottom line.

On top of all that, their commissioner, the man who speaks for the owners by their own choosing, is a world class a-hole. Screw the NBA.

Sedihawk said...

Good comments, all. Welcome downtown Freddie Brown. Isn't your jersey retired or something? What are you doing at a WSU football blog??

Anyway, who the heck knows how it will wind up. The whole thing is a mess. Political leaders are all over the board as to what to do, and there isn't a clear-cut option. But as Art Thiel wrote today, press forward, push the case and talk tough unless and until there is a written, legally binding agreement to relocate or expand to Seattle, period. Don't take Stern's word for it, make him sign it with every guarantee in the world that if Seattle gets it's arena stuff straight with local ownership, the NBA will indeed return.

But yeah, the NBA sucks right now. For us. But something I heard that was a shock to me is that NBA TV ratings are up - HUGE - across the board in the league, even compared to last year. The sport is hot as can be in places where teams actually TRY to win! We have been absolutely sand-bagged by Bennett as part of his greater strategy, and he has killed the average fan's passion for the sport around here.

But it's also something bigger. When you lose a pro sports team, either the NFL, MLB or the NBA, it stings beyond the usual business reasons. As Thiel said:

Whether you are a fan of pro hoops, or whether the deceptions and incompetence exposed by recent events have soured you, the fact remains that a region-wide asset with a quality history is being lost, just as it was when Boeing's corporate headquarters decamped to Chicago.

From a perspective of narrow pragmatism, in each case a few hundred local jobs would depart, but nobody will die and the city will make do. That isn't the point.

From a broader perspective regarding the Sonics, major sports teams offer an increasingly transient community its joinery, a way to care collectively with strangers as well as family and friends about something that is (usually) free of politics, religion, social consequence and the general disorderliness of life; you know, the things that tend to pull us apart instead of together.

That point is easy to lose right now and to me hits home the most. It's an ugly business, but it's also something that can bring people together. But I can assure you there are people I've talked to in my life that, if it wasn't for the Seahawks or the M's or even the Sonics, I probably wouldn't have said a word to them. Just the other day a guy was at our office building changing out the vending machines wearing a Shaun Alexander jersey. Normally I probably would have just said hello and went on my way. Instead we chatted for a few minutes about Alexander and what was going to happen in the draft, etc. I thought later that normally we never would have talked, but the Seahawks were the common ground. I was with Hooty McBoob during the whole 1995 M's playoff run, and after we beat the Yanks in game 5, we high-fived people in every direction. We drove down by the Kingdome, honking the horn, yelling, and even high-fiving oncoming traffic! I was at the NFC championship game and high-fived and even hugged total strangers when it became clear we were headed for the SB. We lose the Sonics, sure, we lose the team to a bunch of arrogant a-holes led by David Stern. But we also lose that chance to bond with someone you, quite honestly, might not even make eye contact with. That is something that you cannot manufacture or pretend it exists.

Anonymous said...

The thing y'all miss is who Clay is. He is not some new face on the block. He was a minority owner of the Spurs back in the 1990's and wanted a team of his own forever. He saw how it worked so well in San Antonio as the only pro sports in town (no MLB, no NFL) and has similar ideas for OKC. And David Stern knows his league has fallen to 3rd among major sports in the post-MJ era. The recent strategy is get to markets that have one or less other competition for the pro sports dollars. Memphis, N.O. with only NFL, Charlotte with only NFL. Stern would rather be in a market with little/no comp.

kaddy said...

Just heard Stern on the Mike Tirico show. When asked what the chances are the Seattle will someday get another NBA franchise, Stern said, "It depends on how our relationship ends up."

atlantacoug said...

Funny thing about this...IF Seattle settles and in the settlement Seattle is 'guaranteed' an expansion team in 'X' years. then Stern wins. He will get the new arena he wants, and OKC gets a team too. He is a sneaky one.
I find it hard to believe that if Seattle fights the NBA it will be 'punished' by the NBA powers. Seems pretty petty when you consider people in power always change in politics.