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Originally published Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

If only Schultz could sue away his blunders

If Howard Schultz pulls off this legal miracle, then he should invest in a new venture: redemptive litigation. How about a magic lawsuit...

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If Howard Schultz pulls off this legal miracle, then he should invest in a new venture: redemptive litigation.

How about a magic lawsuit to erase your biggest mistakes?

It could be bigger than the Clorox Bleach Pen.

Call it the Sue Away.

That's what Schultz hopes to do, sue away the day he sold the Sonics to the Oklahoma Raiders for $350 million. This past week, after news of Schultz's additional breach-of-contract claim and the revelation of even more reckless Raider e-mailing, the Oklahomans look guiltier than ever.

But as Schultz forges ahead with his gimme-that-back maneuver, you must also contemplate the many other mistakes from his five-year Sonics tenure that he should want to sue away.

Perhaps if he hadn't fouled up so completely, the Sonics wouldn't be in this predicament. So, because he's into redemptive litigation now, let's ponder four other Schultz missteps that would make great court cases:

Schultz vs. Gary Payton

Suing for: A hug.

Schultz should sue Payton for peace. Or maybe Payton should sue Schultz for peace. Schultz made the foolish error of verbally sparring with Payton, and he should've known never to argue with The Glove.

Their rift led to the controversial Payton-for-Ray Allen trade in February 2003. Schultz took on a beloved Sonics superstar who should've retired wearing green and gold, and if there's any confusion over who won that fight, refer to the ovation for Payton when he attended the season finale this past season. These days, Schultz couldn't enter KeyArena without a baseball bat, two Secret Service men and a Kevlar vest.

Savvy Schultz vs. Bratty Schultz

Suing for: Dignity.

Remember when Schultz, who used to sit across from the bench, started pouting visibly during games? Savvy Schultz, the acclaimed businessman, became so frustrated with his team's losing that he turned into Bratty Schultz. Bratty Schultz wouldn't clap for his team. When informed that his negative disposition was not a good look, Bratty Schultz stopped coming to games.

This is why most owners sit in a luxury suite, out of sight. It's not a bad thing for an owner to despise losing. But it's wrong to mock the players that you need to work hard for you, even if it's unintentional ridicule.

Schultz vs. Calvin Booth (and every other woeful center during this time)

Suing for: $34 million.

In 2001, Schultz allowed the signing of Calvin Booth to a $34 million contract based on about 15 games of decent play. Booth turned out to be a huge bust, an injury-prone nightmare who struggled just to run down the court. Booth missed 67 games his first season, 35 the next, and after Year 3 of the experiment, the Sonics traded him for Danny Fortson, who basically ate and complained for most of his time here.

Schultz also allowed his basketball-operations staff to give Jerome James $15 million in 2001 and waste first-round draft picks on big men Robert Swift and Johan Petro, who will likely never be in the rotation of a winning team.

For certain, it's hard to find a legit center in today's NBA. But even with low expectations for the position, the Sonics failed miserably when Schultz was the principal owner. You must fault the basketball minds of Wally Walker and Rick Sund the most, but Schultz enabled the blunders.

Schultz vs. conventional ownership wisdom

Suing for: His good intentions.

Schultz was a well-intentioned owner. He really was. But he was naive about many things, especially when it came to dealing with players. Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf warned him once: "Whatever you do, don't become friends with these players."

Schultz did, however. Or he tried to. It led to bad situations, such as when he reassured Desmond Mason — Schultz's favorite Sonic — that he was a part of the franchise's future, only to learn a few days later that Mason had to be included in the Payton-Allen trade.

Mason stopped returning Schultz's calls after the trade. It hurt Schultz deeply. Throughout Schultz's time as an NBA owner, people kept reminding him of the cruelty of sports business, kept hoping he would toss away some of his ideals in favor of practicality.

Schultz didn't figure out how to do that until he sold the team to the Raiders. Now, frantically, he's trying to correct his biggest mistake.

The Sue Away? It had better work.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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