I think that the hearing in NY to determine whether David Stern testifies is actually a pretty important one. As stated earlier I think that the NBA's brief is extremely well written and I expect the city not to get everything they want. That is not based on any inside information, just my .02 after reading it. The two key points are that if Stern has to testify and the financial records have to be turned over I think it is a win for the city. All the other items are window dressing.
There are some issues really coming out in the court case. I'll try to give a brief rundown.
In the case of the City VS PBC the judges interpretation of "is why they want out relevant?" will wind up being the key issue. There is a specific enforcement clause in the lease and the PBC is claiming that his should not be enforceable for a variety of reasons, the most critical being the undue financial hardship. All the other testimony, etc. assumes that they have to determine the magnitude of the financial hardship. I have a hard time seeing a judge say "The team can bring up financial hardship all they want but the city has no right to investigate this issue." More likely they either allow the bulk of this discussion or they tell the team, as the NBA has indicated "this is 100% about specific performance as it appears in the lease and not about your bank statement."
In the case of the League as a 3rd party the exact same issue is critical. The league argues rightly that this case is about specific performance and they wonder why all this background information is needed. On the surface it is not, but then you have to factor that it is not the city who introduced financial performance as an issue, it is the team. If the team is going to make that argument then the city should have the right to explore it. If I were the judge (since I'm pretending to be a lawyer aren't I?) I would tell the team and the league to work it out. If the team wants to go down that road they can ask the league to provide it. If they cannot provide the information based on their relationship with the league then they lose the ability to make their claims of loss.
Lastly in Schultz VS the Lying Cheats I believe that the central issues, at the end of the day, when all the dust settles, will be whether the Renton proposal satisfied good faith. I expect Schultz to go up there and clearly point out that they had a period of 1 year that was clearly defined and not honored. I expect them to say that there were multiple options that were not adequately explored. Also I expect them to show definitively that there was a pattern of deceit and cover ups that should offend the hell out of any judge or jury. Bennett's counter to all of this will be "We made our effort in Renton and it was more than what Schultz did in the year prior."
At the end of the day I think the question will be, "does the Renton arena quality?" Schultz will attempt to downplay that effort by pointing out that it was undermined by poor intentions and that it was clearly meant only for the purposes of providing a superficial effort that gave the appearances of meeting good faith. He'll argue that e-mails reveal that the team had their own grave doubts that it would meet the criteria and, rather than make any additional effort they instead engaged in a fraudulent cover up that included lying to their own commissioner. He'll argue that the efforts had no chance of success when they were not backed by sincerity.
Bennett will point to his invoices and he'll say "We gave them the opportunity." He'll say "even if we had made the decision to move by April we did it after making the full effort we promised."
I think there are several factors that hurt Bennett here. The first is that he took a remodel deal in OKC that included far, far less public money than he asked for in Seattle. Comparatively speaking it will be hard for him to say that it wasn't his strong preference to be there based on what he wound up with. Secondly there are just too many people who will line up against him and say "He never properly engaged us." Clay will regret not working harder with the Renton Chamber of Commerce, key legislators, and even groups like our own. He will be hard pressed to show that his efforts were sincere.
Lastly he'll be hurt by the Calendar. I think that, in the absence of other evidence he could point to Renton and say "We made our shotand then we were available for other opportunities." Unfortunately for him this whole thing is not occurring in the absence of other evidence. The mails to date are just too clear and concise. They paint a picture that make everything look like a scandal and a conspiracy. At the end of the day the Aubrey comment that was explainable on its own becomes inexplainable in the face of all the other evidence. "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here." will be the damning evidence. No matter what they did in Renton I think people will point to the fact that they quit on the Muckleshoots. They quit on Sabey. They quit on the Governors offer to work through the summer. They quit on the Mayors offer to either build a new arena or remodel Key Arena. They had a 12 month commitment and they quit in 6 months. The jury will say "Why did they quit on all those things?" and they will realize that McLendon provided the answer.
Something occurred to me last week that I didn't ever talk about. I know many of you think Mo Sene is a complete bust. I think he's a guy who the jury is still out on. We haven't seen him play and he has been dominant in the NBDL time. Whatever you project him as here is a fact: He is a lottery pick who sustained a potential career ending injury playing in the D-League. This is the first time this has happened. Will it, or should it cause coaches to reconsider whether to send players down for playing time. In a different situation, different market, different player I think his micro-fracture surgery would have been under a hell of a lot more scrutiny. As is it is minimized because a lot of people have already written Sene off and there are much bigger issues swirling around this franchise.