Waiting not 24 hours after Kevin Durant’s home debut, the Sonics new ownership group confirmed the most poorly disguised secret in professional sports Friday, their desire to get the fuck out of Seattle and head for their home turf at the earliest possible opportunity. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Greg Johns.
Clay Bennett (above reiterated Friday that the Sonics are not for sale and informed NBA commissioner David Stern that his ownership group intends to relocate the team to Oklahoma City as soon as they can get out of their KeyArena lease.
That move could come as early as next season if the Oklahoma-based owners win their current lawsuit with the city, or by the 2011 season if they are forced to uphold the remainder of their lease.
“We notified Commissioner Stern that we intend to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City if we succeed in the pending litigation with the City, or are able to negotiate an early lease termination, or at the end of the lease term,” Bennett said in a statement.
Dennis Daugs, a small investor in the former Howard Schultz ownership group, sent a letter to Bennett on Thursday saying he represents a collection of local businessmen interested in purchasing the team.
But in a Friday interview with The Oklahoman, the newspaper owned by his wife’s family, Bennett strongly ruled out that option.
“The teams are not for sale and the parties don’t need to spend their time and energy working on that process,” Bennett told the paper.
Friday’s news was no surprise. Bennett said from the time his group purchased the Sonics and Storm from Howard Schultz on July 18, 2006, that he’d file for relocation if a solution for a new arena in the area wasn’t in place by Oct. 31, 2007.
Rather than conflict with his team’s season opener on that date or Thursday’s home debut at KeyArena, Bennett waited until Friday to drop the news.
Understandably aggrieved, Supersonicsoul’s Peter Nussbaum throws the onus to sort this mess out at David Stern.
Mr. Stern, I cannot believe that you would willingly allow Mr. Bennett to follow through on his words. A group of local investors came forward on November 1, 2007, stating firmly that they had the resources in place to purchase the Sonics from Mr. Bennett. And yet, Mr. Bennett refuses to deal with them, and insists on hijacking the franchise.
How can you, as commissioner of this league, permit this to happen? Set aside the squabbles over arenas for a moment, and ponder this: If you were bothered by the negative publicity your league received after this debacle of a summer (the Donaghy scandal, Kobe Bryant, the neverending run-ins with the law), will you not be bothered by the firestorm of venom which will flow into your offices if you permit a team which has resided in a city for more than 40 years to leave town, when a group of local citizens is willing and able to prevent that from happening?
As a citizen of Vancouver, I remember vividly how you repeatedly parroted your party line of, œI have never let a franchise move on my watch as commissioner to the people of this city. Then, we watched as Michael Heisley took the Grizzlies to Memphis, and then later saw the Hornets move to New Orleans. Does that sentiment of loyalty to the cities which made your league rich still hold true? Or was it even true to begin with?