Homeless in Seattle: The Sonics head the NBA’s Chaotic State

26 08 2007

by maddness

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Seattle or Oklahoma City? Kevin Durant may be the new face of a franchise, but he will not be able to tell you where he will be sleeping in a year.

The second overall selection of the 2007 NBA Draft is almost guaranteed to guide a basketball team into success, but it may be too little too late for the city of Seattle. Waves of new stadium proposals have been shot down by Seattle’s taxpayers, but on paper, many of these plans are flagrant in price and a no-brainer for any hardworking citizen to turn down. That coupled with what NBA Commissioner David Stern calls the “worst lease in sports”, Sonics brass now wants out of the Northwest. Is it the lease or do the owners simply want out of Seattle all together? One thing is for certain; Sonics’ ownership does not want to be in their current arena. Key Arena is located directly in the Seattle Center, which is now viewed by many as an artifact of a once impressive tourist attraction. The Space Needle still stands, but what is offered underneath the famed landmark is less by the day. What was once seen to be a great cog in the ever expanding Seattle Center vibe, the Key Arena is now being limited by the decline of Seattle’s offer to the realm of tourism.

The desire to bust out is natural, but the Sonics situation does not only affect the Sonics and the city of Seattle, as it touches the current state of the NBA more than you’d think. With “what if’s?” and “catch-22s” all over the place, we examine how the Sonics situation could be a catalyst for the NBA, big picture.

What if the Sonics stayed in Seattle?
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The obvious benefactors are the Sonics fans in Seattle, but also the Pacific Northwest sports scene as a whole benefits from this one. The Oden and Durant rivalry will be the closest thing to Magic/Bird we will see for a long time, since the LeBron/Carmello connection has lost steam. Durant and Oden would ignite not only a personal rivalry, but would also spark the rebirth of a dead Blazers/Sonics rivalry. Sports franchises up in the Northwest often get forgotten about, and are never present in major sports publicized rivalries. Instead, you see the Lakers, Knicks, Yankees, Red Sox, Cowboys, Patriots, and so on. The NBA would have no choice but to boast a Northwest heavy rivalry, as in 5 years, its two best players would be in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. This is not all gravy for the NBA, as having their two biggest stars in smaller markets cannot be the best financial formula for success. If Stern and the NBA suits had their way, Oden would be in Boston, with Durant in New York. The problem for the NBA would be that only a small corner pocket of the country has direct access to their young gold mines. The viewing public could lose interest.

What if the Sonics move to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season?
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Again, there are obvious victors here, Oklahoma City and any basketball fan in that region. If there is any place more deserving of a NBA franchise than Oklahoma City, it hasn’t spoken up yet. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, OKC provided more than a solid home for the Hornets, but had to say goodbye for good last season. All over the NBA, people saw that Oklahoma City was ready to take on a team, and no one’s eyes opened wider than the guys behind the desks in Seattle. The Sonics ownership now had leverage, almost to say “Give us what we need or you know we can just go to Oklahoma City and succeed”. Even with a successful move to OKC giving the city one of the most promising players and a young team bound for good things, it does not all clean up that neat. A move to Oklahoma would probably be a move within the Western Conference, maintaining a lack of balance between the league’s two conferences. Switching the “Oklahoma City Sonics” to the Eastern Conference would force David Stern to do some explaining to the New Orleans Hornets as to why they’d still be in the West. Thus, it seems like a choice Stern would avoid. The NBA as a business would probably like to see the Sonics move to a city zoned for Eastern Conference mediocracy, and perhaps reward OKC with an expansion team in the future.

The basketball world sees the fall out of the Western Conference dominance each off season. Eastern Conference teams foam at the mouth over any free agent; yes, any. The Orlando Magic have a promising situation led by phenom Dwight Howard and may be only one piece away from a leap into contention. Magic fans better hope Rashard Lewis is that piece, because he will be there for max years, max dollars through better or worse. Overpaying Lewis gives the Magic zero flexibility, but what else are they to do? It was the right move to make, because Lewis was the best player out there and if the Magic didn’t pay, another desperate Eastern Conf team would. It has gotten so bad that stars in the Western Conference (i.e. Kobe Bryant) are demanding trades to the East for an easier road to the NBA Finals. This just highlights the notion that the playoff structure is broken beyond repair in the NBA. The Western Conference Semi Finals between San Antonio and Phoenix last year was the real NBA Finals. It just doesn’t seem right; Tim Duncan and the Spurs fight off Denver, Utah and Phoenix to get to the juggernaut Cleveland Cavaliers??? As good as LeBron James is, his team would have been a 4 or 5 seed in the West. Keeping Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in the Western Conference will be great for fans wherever they are, but not so much for the NBA as a business.

What if the Sonics move to Las Vegas?
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Ha, yea right.

Bottom line is the NBA has problems and throwing one of the supposed saviors, Kevin Durant, onto a team battling an identity crisis with its city is not the best medicine. The Oden/Durant rivalry, is it good for the Northwest? Yes. For the Western Conference? Yes. For fans of the game? Yes. For the NBA? Hmmm.

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3 responses

27 08 2007
Sportsattitude

Great post. I think the common sense thing to do would have been to keep the Hornets in Oklahoma City and write off their return to New Orleans. OKC proved they deserved the team. There would have been some initial PR-PC fallout from such a decision but the team wasn’t exactly turning folks away from the gate in NO to begin with, were they.? Never should have been there in the first place.

I totally agree the league is terribly, terribly lopsided with most all the quality in the West. It is also quite unfortunate Durant has to deal with the potential move of his brand-new team, and it is hard for the NBA to push marketing the Durant-Oden rivalry from the Pacific Northwest angle if it’s only going to be as such for a year or so.

I would like to see them find a way to keep the Sonics in Seattle and also re-calibrate the league to balance out the divisions/conference strengths. The NBA has some real challenges ahead aside from a wayward ref.

3 06 2008
futon

Futon says : I absolutely agree with this !

5 06 2008
Bonafide

I think the only way to keep da sonics in seattle is to bring back the old logo.space needle rules.haha

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