No doubt someone will claim to have been surprised that Professional Basketball Club, LLC, based in Oklahoma City and as of mid-2006 owners of the Seattle SuperSonics, might actually have been contemplating relocating the team to somewhere nearer its home base. (From 210 Park Avenue, chairman Clay Bennett's office at Dorchester Capital, to the Ford Center, 100 West Reno, is a distance of maybe 2000 feet, not counting the elevators.) To that someone, I offer the following news: "Rosebud" was a sled.
This does not, I hasten to add, mean that the Sonics will be loading up the moving van at the end of this season, or even next season: the team is still bound to Seattle's KeyArena until the current lease expires in 2010, and PBC's effort to get this matter in front of an arbitration panel failed miserably once a judge noticed that according to the agreement, the term of the lease was not subject to arbitration. Still, as promised, Bennett has announced that he plans to file for relocation of the team, and while it's probably not a good idea for the NBA to approve such a thing while litigation is going on, the likelihood that the league will turn down the move, should the legal matters be cleared away, is vanishingly small.
Which leads to the obvious question: what weapons can the city of Seattle bring to the fight? It's hard to say. The biggest argument, beyond the lease itself, is economic: the Seattle market is more than twice the size of Oklahoma City's, even though their central cities are about even, and inasmuch as player-compensation rules under the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement are related to overall league revenues, which presumably would take a percentage point or two hit with the reduction in the Sonics' market size, it's conceivable that some owners might raise objections. PBC could mention that the New Orleans Hornets, during the two seasons they played in Oklahoma City, raked in more cash than they ever did at home Hornets owner George Shinn will admit as much if you press him but New Orleans was no bigger a market than Oklahoma City (it's now quite a bit smaller) and nowhere near the size of Seattle.
But if nothing else, history seems to be on Seattle's side: both the city's baseball and football teams were at one time in similar positions, and both sports, you'll note, are still in Seattle. The Pilots, born