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Sonics' fate could rely on how the balls bounce
Seattle Times staff columnist
The boss' logic now involves lobbying to have the public vote on a new Sonics arena, when we all know public votes on $500 million toys for bad teams always fail.
The boss' insight remains limited to rhetoric about winning championships, when we all know the Sonics have immense restructuring ahead.
The boss' self-examination is so lacking he admits making only one mistake, when we all know Clay Bennett has bungled so much more.
Now that the Boss Man has descended upon us NBA-parched mortals and sprinkled droplets of ambiguous information, it's appropriate to grab the nearest good-luck charm and squeeze tightly.
Only serendipity can save the Sonics.
The signs never have been more noticeable. A miraculous turnaround cannot occur without third-party intervention. So right now, the only thing the Sonics have going for them are ping-pong balls.
The NBA draft lottery is Tuesday. Because of their remarkably futile 31-51 season, the Sonics have about an 18 percent chance to claim one of the top two picks that day. If they're lucky, it means either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, two anticipated NBA stars, will be theirs. It means they finally would have some momentum.
If they're unlucky, then they must commence relying on president Lenny Wilkens' basketball acumen (an asset) and Bennett's vision (a question mark) to thrive. Based on what we've learned so far, Bennett's inexperience as an NBA owner will crush Wilkens' expertise should those pings not pong correctly.
If the Sonics don't earn one of the top two picks, they'll continue to bumble along, regardless of who they hire to coach the team or manage the organization, regardless of where the franchise chooses to reside.
Every time Bennett offers a glimpse into his franchise's veiled existence, we understand why we're seldom allowed entrance into this haunted house. It's an ugly, dreary place.
Let's just hit the highlights of a rare interview he had with The Times late last week:
• He's still greatly disappointed that his arena proposal couldn't grab state lawmakers' attention. His ingenious new arena approach is to ask for a public vote. Looking beyond the let-the-people-be-heard talk, it seems like a win-win trick for Bennett: If this comes to pass and the public voted yes, he gets a snazzy basketball castle. If the public voted no, he could move on with a built-in defense for his carpetbagging.
• He'll hire a new coach and general manager when the time is right and not impose any kind of timeline. It's not a terrible tactic if he hires capable people, but distrustful onlookers could view the strategy as lacking urgency.
• He's not sorry for the way he handled the dismissals of coach Bob Hill and GM Rick Sund. Instead of holding a news conference to explain the move and jumpstart the search for replacements, Bennett only sent a 149-word news release. Bennett told Hill he wasn't returning hours after Hill had hernia surgery, even though Bennett admits we all knew Hill's future months in advance.
• He regrets the announcement of Wilkens' promotion to team president. If you recall, Wilkens leaked the news, but the Sonics refused to confirm it for a day and even had their public-relations staff denying the news. Then, the next day, they confirmed Wilkens' appointment in a news release. Not the most effective way to celebrate the new job title of a Sonics legend.
Since the dismissals of Hill and Sund, Bennett also drew the ire of NBA commissioner David Stern for blurting out Las Vegas as a relocation destination. The Sonics tried to clear that up with, yes, another release. Bennett must've set some kind of record for blunders this spring.
All these mishaps, and the Sonics haven't even delved deeply into their coach and GM searches. From the slivers of information gathered so far, it appears the Sonics are wandering into the treacherous territory of hiring a rookie coach and rookie GM. More follies loom unless they get some lottery luck.
If so, this franchise would become a more attractive destination for potential hires. If they land the top pick, which likely will be Oden, they solve their never-ending center dilemma and vault into the status of a rising young team.
That's the joy of the draft. It can turn awful franchises into trendy ones. Look at the LeBron James Cavaliers.
In 40 years, the Sonics never have been lucky enough to select No. 1 overall. You have to wonder if that's an indicator of how they will fare Tuesday or a reason to believe good fortune is overdue.
Then again, Tuesday marks the one-month anniversary of Bennett's botched handling of his decision to can Hill and Sund. So karma could bite the Sonics, too.
It should be an interesting night. It's probably enough to make the Boss Man lose sleep pondering his next news-release statement.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company