Hoopless in Seattle

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ July 3, 2008 : 12:15 pm

It’s D-Day plus one. The city of Seattle settled their lawsuit with the Sonics ownership group only a few minutes from Judge Pechman’s decision on the case.

Right now, Clay Bennett is probably singing the lyrics to a famous John Denver song. “All my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.? Bennett stated in his press conference that the relocation will commence immediately with the Sonics players being the first to move to OK City. In the most appropriate fashion, thunder and lightning dominate the sky as if God himself is not pleased by the outcome of the Sonics leaving the city.

Mayor Nickels, Nick Licatta, and Frank Chopp are also singing, but it’s the lyrics to another song. “MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MON-NEH!,? as the city got $45 million out of the deal with Bennett’s group. Another $30 million is expected to be received in 2013, if the state legislature approves $75 million in funding by next year and the city fails to bring in another team.

After hearing about this, I’ve only got one thing to say.

You have got to be f***ing kidding me.

During the opening statement of the city’s Paul Lawrence stated that the value of the Sonics in Seattle could not be quantified, there’s no price tag you could put on it.

Not according to Mayor Nickels. $45 million sounded pretty good to him. Now the city walks back with its tail between its legs and its wallet jammed packed with money.

In a press conference at 5pm yesterday, Mayor Nickels stated that he is confident that this is the best opportunity for keeping the NBA is Seattle. That’s just doesn’t make sense at all to me. To keep the NBA in Seattle, we have to let it leave. Now I know of that elegant old statement “If you truly love something, let it go, if it comes back it’s yours,? but that just doesn’t apply in this case. Don’t believe me, just give Kansas City a call. It’s been a long time since the Kings packed up their bags and headed up to Sac-town and they still don’t have an NBA team. New Orleans just recently got a team after the Jazz left in 1979. 1979!!

Only way a team is going to get here is if a team goes up for sale or the league creates another expansion team. Stern has already been stated on the record as saying that “the league is not looking towards expanding domestically.? So essentially, we need to have the blind faith of someone like Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come.? That’s a lot of good faith for the tax payers, the politicians, and the fans. And as we’ve seen recently in the NBA, the word “good faith? does not go a long way around these parts or Oklahoma City.

The NBA and David Stern as a commissioner is a pathetic joke as well. Several months ago they said that a renovated arena could not work as a viable venue for an NBA franchise. No less than 5 minutes after the settlement is reached, the plans are perfectly fine for an NBA team. It just shows you that the league and commissioner don’t really care about the fans, the history and the emotional attachment. 41 years ago, a burgeoning basketball league asked the city to make an emotional investment. We did. Now that same league is abandoning us making our investment amount to nothing but pain and anguish.

The whole situation reminds me of a sunflower plant that was given to an acquaintance of my by his ex-girlfriend. After a long period of neglect, it turned extremely brown and just died. He tried to revive it, putting it out on the deck and watering it, but we all knew it was already too late. Much like the Sonics situation, the people who could have done the most to save the team, stepped in way too late to keep the team here. All of this could have been prevented if people like Howard Schultz, Governor Gregoire, and Mayor Nickels, had a little bit more patience and the vision to see what would happen. Now all the politicians are on the hot seat, especially Gregoire who’s up for re-election. With such a close win in her last campaign, there’s enough Sonics’ fans to make her chances doubtful. Awake a sleeping giant and it will crush you.

The only bright spot in this so-called victory for the city. (In my opinion, it’s more like a Pyrrhic victory) The city gets to retain all the memorabilia, name, records, and trophies from the Supersonics. Of course, OK City will have duplicates made that will be hanging in the Ford Center. Bennett referred to them as “assets we want to have.? And therein lies the problem, he’s a businessman who never cared one bit about the fans up here. He talks of a poisoned well, but he’s the person who tainted it in the first place.

We can get another team, but it’s never going to be the same. You can shatter a glass bottle, try to glue the pieces together, but it’ll never be the same bottle. The mayor talks of keeping hope alive for another NBA team, but in reality it’s really hopeless, or how the PI eloquently dubbed it “Hoopless.?

When Sonics Owners Attack!

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 17, 2008 : 3:12 pm

Let the mud slinging begin!

It’s been a rough week for Bennett and the Professional Basketball Club LLC. After having disclosed emails that have hurt the effort of their current lawsuit with the City of Seattle, former ownership group led by Howard Schultz has filed for a breach of contract lawsuit to regain ownership of the team. Specials about the Sonics situation has sprung up on ESPN, as well as other national media outlets. Bad publicity is the only thing that PBC seems to get nowadays, but in today’s headline, they decided to strike back.

The Seattle Times and the P.I. have reported that Bennett and his ownership group are accusing the City of Seattle of working in collusion with Matt Griffin and his partners. In the new federal court filing, Bennett’s attorneys are stating that it is a clear attempt to bleed the ownership group dry to force a potential sale of the team to Griffin’s group.

The filing has specific asked for Matt Griffin to be involved in the litigation and publicly disclose documents regarding the City of Seattle that have been redacted for the sake of relevancy and privacy. In a simpler sense, PBC is trying to dismiss the case of the city of Seattle, by proving they had “unclean hands.?

Unclean hands is a affirmative defense legal doctrine that states a party who is asking for assistance from the courts cannot received if it he or she has done anything unethical in relation to the lawsuit filed. If Bennett’s group can prove that the City of Seattle has conducted itself in unethical manner such as filling a lawsuit with the intent of forcing a sale of the team to a local buyer, then the courts would dismiss this case. That decision would ultimately facilitate the move to OK City very rapidly.

This new move darkens the already murky waters of the Sonics situation and if the federal judge does approve of these filings, more dirty laundry of the City of Seattle and its government officials may come to light. Liars calling out liars seems to be the most appropriate phrase for this new development as it will be interesting to see how Bennett’s ownership group can manage both lawsuits at the same time while facilitating the potential move to Oklahoma City. The lawyer’s clock is running and the pay rate is not cheap.

A season finale to remember

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 14, 2008 : 4:55 pm

It’s been the worst season in Sonics Basketball. Posting a 20-win 62-loss record, the 07-08 Sonics have a secured the second worst record in the NBA, just behind the Miami Heat. As a 5-year season ticket holder, I was expecting the worst as I headed to the “Key? with my Dad. Visions of a half empty Key Arena to cap off the murder of one of my most beloved franchises in Seattle, would have been perfect for good ol’ Clay Bennett.

But the fans of the Sonics didn’t look at it this way. They came out in force to show Bennett, the NBA, and dare I say the world, that 41 years of basketball in a city would not die, at least not on this night.

As my Dad and I arrived at our seats, I looked around the arena it was a pretty packed crowd with a reported 16,272 in attendance for the game. There was a roar through the crowd in the first quarter that was hard for my Dad to discern. Confused, he leaned into me and asked, “What are they saying?? I immediately knew what they were saying and after soaking in the raucous crowd, my smirk ridden face replied. “Bennett sucks!?

After watching the 1st quarter, I went down to grab some food. Bennett and staff didn’t want to make what could be the last hurrah of the Seattle Supersonics a comfortable one. More than half of the concession stands at the Key were closed, funneling all of the fans into enormous lines for the overpriced food and beer. Little mutterings of “Bennett’s a slime ball? and “Gregoire dropped the ball,? could be heard through out the line. I myself was stuck in these lines, spending about a quarter of the game waiting for some chicken quesadillas and a cup of Dos Equis.

When my patience slowly changed to irritation I had to find some way to pass the time in line. As I looked up on the TV mounted on the wall, I saw the home team trailing by a significant amount of points. It looked liked the Sonics season would go out with a whimper instead of sonic boom.

But then it happened, a quiet rumble that rapidly grew into a roar that had all of us in line trying to figure out what had just happened. Then I saw it, or more precisely I saw him.

Gary Payton, the Glove.

Like myself, other people stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the screen. Then the camera faded in and lo and behold Payton was at the game. “GP! GP!? could be heard through out the entire arena. The drunk guy standing next to me uttered, “Holy $***, GP is at the game!”

By the time I had made it back to my seat, and the rally began. Behind the rejuvenated play of Earl Watson, the Sonics attacked the Mavericks. By end of the rally, the home team had turned a 9 point deficit into a 9 point lead.

As the teams battled back and forth for the lead, I looked around a starting soaking what might be my last time at the Key. Grasping for my camera, I took a few snaps of the GO SONICS banner and the Western Conference, Pacific, and Northwest Division banners. I even took the time to run (not walk) to Sonics Legends Drive and snap a few keepsakes of the retired jerseys and newspaper clippings of the 1979 Championship run. As the fourth quarter came around I sat down for one of the finest memories in my history as a member of the Sonics nation.

At the 2 minute mark, the entire crowd of 16,000 fans all got up for what could be the last 2 minutes of Seattle NBA basketball. With everyone on their feet, the noise was incredibly deafening. Key Arena looked just like it did during the great playoff runs during the 90’s. Sonics in a tight game against a playoff caliber team with every possession being crucial to winning or losing.

Then it happened.

With a driving play, Kevin Durant hit a 15 ft. jumper from the near the top of the key. The crowd erupted into a cheer that was louder then anything I’ve ever heard at a Sonics game. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Sonics just won the NBA championship. With the game in hand, nobody thought it could get any better.

It did.

While the referees deliberated, the crowed roared with three simple words: Save. Our. Sonics. In those three brief minutes, all the pride and love of the Sonics came pouring into the arena. Kevin Durant walked down the court stirring up the crowd waving his arms up. For the first time, Durant let it be known that he doesn’t want the team to leave Seattle either.

With the cheering, the appearance of Gary Payton, and the win, the finale of the home season couldn’t have ended on a higher note. Whether it’s the last game of the Sonics in Seattle or not, fans made sure that the NBA knew 41 years of basketball would not go quietly into the night. Sorry Bennett, you can take our team, but not the history, nor our love for it.

Howard Schultz, the Sonics savior?

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 11, 2008 : 11:14 am

On the drive to work, Dave Mahler from 950 KJR chimed in on the recent email disclosures of the Sonics ownership. Being the great optimist that he is, he entertained the idea of one person being able to keep the Sonics in the city of Seattle.

No, it’s not Steve Ballmer.

The person Dave “Softy? Mahler is referring to is a villain of sorts in the Seattle sports world. Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and former majority owner of the team. All of this materialized because of the new emails that exposed the true intentions of Clayton Bennett’s ownership group. Softy brought up Schultz only interview with 950 KJR, where he disclosed some of the conditions of the deal that transferred ownership to Clay Bennett.

Schultz stated in his interview, “As part of the negotiation, I asked for something that was a deal breaker in negotiation. What I asked for was a side letter to our ownership group and to me…that said basically he would honor the four-year lease in terms of the 2010 terms, and use his best efforts over next 12 months…?

Softy is entertaining the idea that the newly revealed emails are a blatant breach of contract by the Sonics ownership group. In Softy’s ideal world, Schultz would sue Bennett’s group for breach of contract and regain ownership of the Sonics, then subsequently sell the team to Ballmer’s local group.

It terms of legal analysis, its not exactly a “slam dunk? case. There are lots of issues that would need to be explored. If Schultz group did entertain the idea of suing for breach of contract, it becomes an issue of determining if substantial performance was fulfilled, whether or not the letter is considered a part of that contract to sell the team, determining if and when Bennett’s group was discharged from its duties to the contract, and defining the concept of “good faith? in this particular situation.

Since the $350 million has already exchanged hands, Bennett’s group can merely take the stance of substantial performance since Schultz group has received a significant amount of what has been asked for by Bennett.

If in some off way, and that’s being extremely optimistic, Schultz is able to be a major cog in retaining the Sonics in Seattle, he would be able to climb out of the black hole that many Seattle-ites have thrown him into.

Of course, the idea of Schultz being the Sonics Savior is a little to hard to swallow for most fans. Maybe Softy is merely entertaining conjectures, but with the light so dim in the Sonics nations all options are starting to look like good ones.

Email reveals Sonics ownership group’s true intentions

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 10, 2008 : 11:49 am

Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times has just reported that the Attorneys for the City of Seattle have revealed some shocking emails by the Sonics ownership group regarding the team’s future.

Through a series of emails that were sent after the final game of the 06-07 season, the public has discovered that the Sonics owners never had the intention of keeping the team in Seattle. If there was one movie quote that encapsulate the situation, it’s probably this one.

“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi…? –Darth Maul, Phantom Menace

The email recalls the conversation between Clay Bennett, Tom Ward and Aubrey McClendon, members of the Sonics Ownership group. In the above mentioned email, Tom Ward poses the question to Bennett and McClendon, “Is there any way to move [to Oklahoma City] for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?? Bennett replied, “I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!? Ward and McClendon replied to his email vowing to do whatever they could to facilitate a faster move to Oklahoma City.

That was April 17th 2007.

Another email sent by Clay Bennett to David Stern on August 18th 2007, where he blatantly lies to Commissioner David Stern about having any conversations of relocating the team to Oklahoma City.

“ I would never breach your trust. As absolutely remarkable as it may seem, Aubrey and I have NEVER discussed moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City, nor have I discussed it with ANY other member of our ownership group. I have been passionately committed to our process in Seattle, and have worked my *** off. The deal for me NEVER changed: “
- Clay Bennett to David Stern in August

Apparently the word “never? and “any? has a different meaning Oklahoma City. The April 17th email contradicts his letter to Stern and proves that he did have every intention of moving the team, the first chance he got. Is this the so-called “good faith? effort that he pledged when he purchased the team from Schultz in 2006?

It will be interesting to see the ramifications in light of this new evidence. Will it cost the ownership group their Federal Court case? How will Stern react to the news that Bennett openly lied to him about his plans of relocation? Will the NBA owners not support his petition for relocation after hearing of his deceitful words to the NBA fans of Seattle.

As far as the Seattle public is concerned, the verdict is already out on poor Clay-Clay. He’s cast into the black hole of truly hated Seattle sports figures, but he shouldn’t be too lonely. A-Rod will be sitting right next to him.

Here’s a link to the Seattle Times article

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