Wake up! Don't you care about the Sonics?
Where's the outrage, Seattle? We've got some carpetbaggers from Oklahoma City trying to take away this region's NBA team. We've got fat cats...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Where's the outrage, Seattle?
We've got some carpetbaggers from Oklahoma City trying to take away this region's NBA team. We've got fat cats from OKC making outrageous, unreachable demands on the Seattle City Council and the state's legislators.
We've got suits from the South, who know nothing about the history of the game in this city, and worse, don't care, counting the days until they can load up the trucks and head for home.
Where's the anger? Where is the righteous, raucous rage against these hoop hijackers?
New owner Clay Bennett doesn't know about Seattle basketball. He may make assorted allusions to the history of the team here. He may say, with barely a note of sincerity, that he wants to stay.
But Clay Bennett wasn't holding his head in agony when Denver's Dikembe Mutombo fell, face-up on the floor, hoisting the basketball over his head, celebrating the Nuggets' 1994 playoff series win over the Sonics.
Bennett wasn't glued to his television, counting off the final seconds in 1979, as the Sonics won the NBA championship over Washington.
He didn't really understand the pain this city's fans felt last March when Dennis Johnson died suddenly.
You think he cares about the Seattle Sonics? He only cares about the Seattle money. And if he doesn't get enough of it, if he doesn't get the inflated arena deal he wants — or at least says he wants — he's gone.
Where are the people, rich and poor, willing to step in and save this team in this city? I know they're out there.
Where are the fans who have supported this team for more than 40 years? Where are the fans who still love the team, even if that love went unrequited through the Howard Schultz years?
Bennett wasn't here when owner Sam Schulman brought the NBA to town. Schulman wasn't from Seattle, either, but he made this city a big-league town. He gave us Lenny Wilkens, Spencer Haywood, Fred Brown, Gus Williams, John Johnson, Jack Sikma, Bill Russell, Paul Silas, Slick Watts.
He gave us a championship.
Bennett didn't scream himself hoarse at the '79 victory parade. He didn't protest when Wilkens was traded to Cleveland. He wasn't there when George Karl came to town, wasn't emotionally invested in Shawn Kemp's 1996 low-post, toe-to-toe with Karl Malone.
He didn't feel what we felt inside KeyArena when the Sonics beat the Chicago Bulls in the fourth and fifth games of the '96 Finals. He didn't ache in 2005 after Ray Allen's Game 6 jumper missed against San Antonio, ending Seattle improbably successful season.
In fact, you can almost bet Bennett was rooting for the Spurs.
He didn't mourn coach Nate McMillan's move to Portland. Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins, Hersey Hawkins, Frank Brickowski, Tom Chambers, Xavier McDaniel, Dale Ellis, Bernie Bickerstaff. What do those names mean to Bennett?
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels made another attempt last week to show the new Sonics and Storm ownership group he is committed to making the NBA work in Seattle.
All he is asking in return is $100 million from the Sonics. All he is asking is for the owners to be partners in either a new Seattle arena, or a remodeled KeyArena that would have more revenue sources for Bennett's Boys.
Nickels would like a face-to-face with Bennett. He wants to know, even though the answer should be clear, if Bennett even wants the Sonics in Seattle.
But all the mayor gets for his efforts is stony silence.
It's time to pay attention to Bennett's patronizing behavior. It's time to tell him we're not letting him out of the KeyArena lease that doesn't expire until the end of the 2009-10 season.
Let's give general manager Sam Presti credit. Under difficult circumstances, he's building a new basketball team. He's culling the roster, stockpiling draft picks, clearing cap room and adding future stars like Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.
But it's impossible to get excited about a future that is this tenuous.
It's impossible to quicken your pulse when, this summer, the team is being run on the cheap.
The franchise is saving salary through the summer. The Sonics summer-league teams were run by part-time coaches. A skeleton staff is taking care of the team's day-to-day operations.
Coach P.J. Carlesimo's assistants — expected to be former Denver and Sacramento assistant Scotty Brooks and coach Paul Westhead of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury — haven't been announced.
It's as if Bennett knows what we all know, that NBA commissioner David Stern wants the Sonics in Seattle. As if he knows Stern doesn't want to drop some 40 market sizes from Seattle to Oklahoma City.
So Bennett's plan is to make this season as unappealing as possible, so he can say to Stern, "Look, nobody's buying tickets or suites. We're losing money. Nobody cares. Don't fight me on this."
The time has come for Seattle to show it cares. To hold the Sonics to their lease and hold Bennett's feet to the fire. Time for wealthy, caring fans like David Sabey and Steve Ballmer to brainstorm with Nickels and other politicians.
It's time for outrage. Time to speak up. Time to save the Sonics from the moving vans. The Sonics belong to Seattle.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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UPDATE - 9:02 PM
Steve Kelley: What happened to the once-scary Huskies?
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.