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Originally published July 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 3, 2008 at 12:06 PM

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Editorial

Sonics deal leaves city in despair

Legal settlement that sends Sonics to Oklahoma City is a bad deal for Seattle.

Seattle sports fans can only feel despair as the high-tech shining city of the future loses its 40-year basketball franchise and a ton of civic pride to a group of dishonest brokers from Oklahoma City.

The team is leaving town. That is all anyone will remember. The settlement between the city and the owners of the Sonics, or whatever the team will be called once the bus reaches the Sooner State, is hugely disappointing.

Promises to deliver a future team are just that. You cannot take it to the bank, or KeyArena, or any other place where basketball belongs.

The settlement may be face-saving for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels because the first $45 million payment is enough to cover rent and debt on earlier renovation of KeyArena.

But this is not a good deal for citizens.

Clay Bennett's group pays $45 million to get out of town, followed by $30 million payable to the city in 2013 if another team is not forthcoming to Seattle.

Seattle retains the name and memorabilia.

That second payment sounds good until you realize $30 million flows only if the Legislature in 2009, not 2010 or any other year, allows the city to collect a modest hotel-motel tax to refurbish KeyArena.

A statement by the National Basketball Association that Seattle is a great basketball town is as weak as the NBA's promise to work with possible new owners led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The only good news for miles is Ballmer and his group remain willing to buy an NBA franchise if the city and the state each pledge $75 million to redo KeyArena.

A settlement is the worst scenario for a separate lawsuit alleging contract violation by the group that purchased the team from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and other investors. Bennett et al promised a one-year, good-faith effort to make it work in Seattle. Evidence abounds the partners had other intentions from the start.

How likely is it that a team will leave town and be brought back? Not likely. If the city lost its lease case, it could appeal to a higher court and ask to hold the team during appeal.

There is no prettying this up. Money is coming to the city. Big whoop.

Having an NBA franchise called the Sonics is about much, much more.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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