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Originally published November 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 2, 2007 at 11:45 AM

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Sonics | Mr. Stern, we have your number

"Good morning, Mr. Stern. You have 1,000 messages. " That's what the organizers of Save Our Sonics and Storm hope NBA commissioner David...

Seattle Times staff reporter

"Good morning, Mr. Stern. You have 1,000 messages."

That's what the organizers of Save Our Sonics and Storm hope NBA commissioner David Stern hears when he checks his voice mail today.

Instead of pulling out the bullhorn and picket signs to chant their disapproval of the Sonics' possible move to Oklahoma, the group went stealth.

As the Sonics tipped off their 41st season, about five volunteers circled KeyArena's exterior and concourse handing out the commissioner's number (it's 212-407-8300, by the way), asking people to let Stern know they want to keep the team for another 41 seasons.

The flier encouraged people to "give David Stern a piece of your mind [and] pass this number onto fellow Sonics fans and call frequently!"

Last week the commissioner said at teleconference with national media there was little he could do to help keep the Sonics in Seattle.

"I've called him [Stern] a few times," said Curtis Fanta, 20, who helped hand out the number. "I told him just how disappointed I'd be if they left and how I loved the Sonics since I was really little. The NBA seems to be going downhill."

Some fans didn't want Stern's number, preferring to take "Keep Our Teams Here" placards as they entered the arena. But Fanta said the overall "reaction has been really good. Most are like, 'Yeah, I'm going to call right now.' "

Sonics primary owner Clay Bennett instituted an Oct. 31 deadline to have a definitive proposal in place for a new "world-class arena" when he purchased the team last year from the previous ownership, headed by Starbucks' Howard Schultz. Otherwise, Bennett said he would move the Sonics and Storm to Oklahoma.

But that date passed with no movement, and no statement from Bennett regarding his plans.

"Mr. Bennett wants the focus to be on the team, on the game, on the start of the season and the fans enjoying the game," said spokesman Dan Mahoney, reiterating the same line given all week. "He'll have further comment [today]."

The owner has until March 1 to file for relocation with the NBA and said in September that he has begun the application process. He needs a simple majority vote from the league's 30 team owners and can vote himself.

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The likelihood of the franchise moving away prompted Paul Hodgson and Joel Feldman to walk the KeyArena concourse with a sign. One sign read, "Trade Bennett." The flip side read, "Noklahoma" with a drawing of that state crossed out.

"I'm surprised they let me in with this," said Hodgson, 30, who has attended the past six Sonics home openers. "Fascist ownership, you can't believe what they would do. I understand the financial problems, but that's all over the league. You've got to keep the team here."

Feldman added: "Professional sports should be a public good. It's part of our community and it shouldn't be something that could just be traded away. The Sonics are part of the soul of this city, and the fact that they are going to try to take this away from us — that's the problem with professional sports."

While many fans grew emotional when asked about losing their team, the crowd was focused on the game — until the crowd started chanting "Save Our Sonics" with 5:23 remaining in the second quarter.

Monica Pillay is trying not to think about her beloved Sonics relocating.

"I'm not looking into that," said the 23-year-old. "I'm going to enjoy the season because it might be the last. I want to make the best of it."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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