By Michael Rand
Clay Bennett, a “man possessed” (his words) and perhaps the least popular man in Seattle right now aside from Sassbottom (cheap shot) will have to hold the phone for just a minute on all this moving to OKC talk. That’s because the Sonics’ former owner is suing to get the team back. From ESPN.com:
The former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics plans to sue the current owners to get the team back, arguing they breached a condition of the sale to make a “good-faith effort” to keep Seattle’s oldest pro sports franchise from leaving town, according to Seattle-area media reports.
Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, who sold the Sonics to an Oklahoma City-based group led by Clay Bennett, will not seek monetary damages, but wants the team back, according to his attorney, Richard Yarmuth.
“It’s not money damage. It’s to have the team returned,” Yarmuth said, according to The Seattle Times. “The theory of the suit is that when the team was sold, the Basketball Club of Seattle, our team here, relied on promises made by Clay Bennett and his ownership that they desired to keep the team in Seattle and intended to make a good-faith effort to accomplish that.”
The team’s ownership group has sought NBA approval to move the team to Oklahoma City for next season. The city has taken the team to court to enforce its lease at Key Arena, which runs through September 2010.
The lawsuit, expected to be filed in the next two weeks, comes after the city obtained and made public e-mails among members of the current Sonics ownership group, in which they are seen privately discussing a move to Oklahoma City at the same time they were publicly pledging to continue “good-faith” efforts to remain in Seattle.
It remains to be seen shether this proves to be little more than posturing on Yarmuth’s part to wash his hands of this mess. We also will say this: from the outside, Key Arena looks like a nice post-apocalyptic shelter, but it’s no NBA facility. But nonetheless we hate to see a city have a team pulled out from under it (that would never happen in the Twin Cities … oh wait), and we will always have a soft spot for the Sonics because of Xavier McDaniel’s seminal work in Singles.