Philadelphia Inquirer - David Aldridge
I continue to tell people that this is not over yet. Finally a couple of people believe me.
I am going to say flat out that I do not know who Aldridge's "Mr. Seattle" is but I could speculate either Slade Gorton or Pete VonReichbauer. I can tell you that I take a smidgen of ownership in the attitude change they are talking about. We've worked very hard to shift the battle to "We have to save the Sonics" instead of "We have to pay the millionaires." This has been extremely intensive lobbying much of which will never ever get reported.
Aldridge is right. Even as the rhetoric has intensified the attitude has shifted. I wish that there were more out of the mayors office but in just a very overall sense there is a feeling that we have a window to get things done and that if we work it right, and private money can be found to supplement the public there will be an arena. Any relocation committee appointed by the league will consider this arena option in its vote and I have been basically told that I am crazy if I think that the vote will be such a rubber stamp process that they will recommend a move out of Seattle iwth an arena on the table. Seattle's market size and tradition are too important for the league to do that.
I have a firm belief that Clay Bennett did in fact advise that the door was not closed on Seattle because he has no choice. Neither the team, nor the league, nor in reality the city have any real answer for how to handle a potential 3 year lame duck situation. They are all simply hoping that it does not occur. For the first several months of this campaign the term "good faith effort" was a real buzzword. Now everything centers upon the concept of "specific performance" which was practically made famous by my man Paul Schniederman. The city will likely win this battle and the term "lame duck" will be front and center. The team has a revenue sharing agreement with the city and in all likelyhood there could be claims that by filing for relocation with 3 enforceable years remaining on the lease they have intentionally minimized revenue of ticket sales during that period. It will only get uglier and as the specter of "Lame Duck" status begins to rear its ugly head people will have no choice but to re-evaluate.
Another article sounds bad, but is really pretty good for the cause. The NY Daily News' Mitch Lawrence concedes that the Sonics are all but gone. That point I disagree with.
In the same article however he points out another issue that could become front and center, the overall health of the league:
Seattle's move, in fact, will continue the disturbing trend of NBA teams picking up and leaving for smaller media and corporate markets, starting with Vancouver's move to Memphis after the 2000-01 season, and continuing with Charlotte bolting to New Orleans, the site of the All-Star Game this season, a year later. Seattle is home to 14 Fortune 500 companies, compared to only three in Oklahoma City. Seattle is the 13th-largest media market in the U.S., while Oklahoma City is 45th.
The NBA has to address this issue at some point and I believe pretty strongly that the move from Seattle is different than the first two because it is so high profile. It is easy to claim that things simply "didn't work out in Vancouver" after such a short run. More and more the potential move from Seattle is looking like a tremendous acknowledgment of weakness on the part of the NBA. A 40 year franchise in a healthy economy, with good attendance that is simply failing because its mismanaged product cannot sell to the people or the government. As the battle intensifies and the facts come out these types of articles will go from vague to very specific and it will air dirty laundry the league does not want to address. Keep up the reporting Mitch.
Keep the faith guys and girls. We're working hard for you.