SEATTLE -- On their way out the door, the young SuperSonics upended the Mavericks 99-95 on Sunday night, but the celebrating ended as soon as it began. What had been won, really? A victory in their worst season on the court; a meaningless evening amid the bigger scheme.
The fans were slow to leave, knowing they might never be coming back and no doubt wondering why they should care. Why invest money and joy in a franchise that apparently would rather play in a smaller market without tradition, that is cashing out 41 years in one of America's great cities? I BLEED GREEN read a sign held high by one stubborn fan; SAVE OUR SONICS read many others. On and off the people chanted epithets at the owner while cheering on his players, and afterward a father and his two young children lingered at their seats in their green and yellow Afro wigs that they likely won't be needing any longer. Hundreds of others stayed as long as they could, like old friends unwilling to leave a college reunion.
This was the last home game of the last Seattle season, if Sonics owner
The league's owners are expected to approve the team's relocation this week in New York, though the vote won't be unanimous (only a majority is needed for approval). "I'll do what I can to keep them here,'' said Mavericks owner
Cuban emphasized that Bennett was "doing the right thing'' for the fans in his home state by moving the team to Oklahoma. "But it's about Seattle vs. Oklahoma City, and which is better for the NBA. No question it's Seattle,'' said Cuban, measuring the revenues, visibility and franchise history that would be sacrificed by moving from Seattle to a financially inferior market. He made special note of the NBA's 41-year investment in Seattle. "There is an equity value that you can't quantify,'' he said. "But it should be quantified.''
So what did he think of the impending divorce? "It's something I rarely think about, to be honest,'' he said. "I can't stress enough ... let me say this right ... I have no control over any of it. No matter what, I've got to continue to play. If we leave, we leave. If we stay, we stay.''
Much as players must play despite contractual disagreements or rumors of impending trades, so was Durant viewing the move to Oklahoma City as another "business decision.''
"It's part of the game,'' he said. "Everything is part of the game.'' Apart from the reduction in attendance, the community trauma had little effect on the players this season.
In the second quarter, Payton appeared from the visitors' tunnel and angled his way to his front-row seat in the corner near the Mavericks' bench. Screaming cheers around him spread quickly throughout the arena, and his formal introduction on the scoreboard video screen created a standing ovation that was the loudest and most sincere of the evening. The 16,272 were applauding what they had before seven years of arena squabbles swallowed up the franchise.
"It was emotional,'' said Sonics forward
The new administration has pursued a disciplined strategy to accrue draft picks and salary-cap space while rebuilding around Durant, though the benefits are set to be harvested elsewhere. I don't believe that Bennett ordered the offseason departures of
Seattle's building is the smallest and its lease is the worst in the NBA, according to
A few important politicians have killed every proposal, while the leverage Bennett thought he held was used against him politically. The original premise was that Bennett -- rather than the previous owner,
In either case, the NBA had to back him after his Oklahoma group paid an exorbitant $350 million to buy the Sonics, because that's how the league measures its growth, rather than by annual profits and losses. It would be a bad precedent for future owners if Bennett was held accountable for cleaning up a mess in Seattle that he quickly realized was not agreeable to him or his partners. The league wants new owners to buy in, after all. And so 41 years of goodwill has been trashed.
The naïve hope that another team will move into Seattle is absurd. Local government and taxpayers are going to suddenly turn about and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in an arena project on behalf of the NBA? The people in Seattle who loved the NBA for 41 years are going to hate the NBA when it leaves. They are going to feel betrayed by Bennett and commissioner
So this is how it ended. The Mavericks were winning by six points with three minutes to go when something happened. A three-point play by Collison, a jump shot by French center