Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sonic Boom can be felt in Portland

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Predictably, Seattle fans are angry at their smug Starbucks owner selling out; Oklahoma City fans are excited by the opportunity to get a permanent team in their city (if the Sonics relocate to OKC); and Blazers fans are hoping and rationalizing that their team will not be shipped to Seattle by the Microsoft co-founder.

It seems many in Seattle are resigned to the fact that the Sonics will be gone. It doesn’t seem a done deal by any means, however. There’s still a Key Arena deal to be sorted out and numerous other logistical problems. The overriding consensus has to be however, that this OKC ownership group didn’t come in to keep the team in Seattle. As “Trader” Bob Whitsitt says, the Sonics have earned the right to keep their team after 39 years. Sadly, in the sports business, that sort of stuff doesn’t matter.

What does all of this mean for the Blazers? And more specifically for their fans? As I wrote yesterday, I really can’t see it being an easy decision for Allen to take the Blazers to Seattle – whether he has affinity for the city or not. The financial constraints of a 2025 lease at the Rose Garden, the threat of the city suing for lost revenue and the uncertainty involved with attracting a new fan base all make it extremely unlikely.

Clay Bennett has contended that he intends to give it a year to eek out a local deal for the Sonics, but the overriding feeling is that he is set to move them within the next few years. It was a bit like James Dolan’s “I’ll give Isiah one year to perform” in New York. It gives you the impression that the smallest obstacle will be an excuse for change.

Meanwhile the people of Louisville feel a bit left out of the whole NBA equation.

A final thought: if the new OKC owners of the Sonics don’t think the team can be profitable in Seattle and are rushing to move them out, why would Allen believe he can move the Blazers there (alienating the fan base) and expect the team to be successful? The Blazers are finally on the right track in moving forward (signing Przybilla, making draft-day trades and infusing exciting youth) – now is not the time to move.

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