Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sonic Doom

So let me see if I have this right: The Seattle Supersonics, holders of (according to none other than Commissioner David Stern) the worst arena lease agreement in the League, were recently sold to a group led by an Oklahoma City businessman. The Sonics's previous owner, Howard Schultz—who turned a little coffee shop named Starbucks into a multi-zillion dollar worldwide juggernaut—was having trouble making things work in Seattle. And Oklahoma City showed their NBA readiness by welcoming the hurricane-displaced Hornets with open arms and wallets. About the only thing that seems certain now is that Oklahoma City will be getting an NBA franchise in the near future.

The question now, of course, is which one?

The Hornets would seem to have the edge. After all, they've already settled into the area (Chris Paul surely considers Oklahoma City home, not New Orleans), and the most logical thing to do would be to simply let them stay. New Orleans is still a disaster area, and expecting that fragile economy (and landscape) to support something as expensive—and frivolous—as an NBA team seems silly.

Then again, abandoning New Orleans wouldn't do any wonders for the NBA's reputation. Players should never lose their starting jobs to injury, and cities shouldn't lose their franchises due to natural disasters. The proper thing to do would be to allow the Hornets to play in OKC again next season, with the expectation of their returning to New Orleans full-time for the '07-08 season. If that appears to be unworkable, then other plans could be made.

But will the Sonics slip into OKC instead? That is, to paraphrase Biggie, what has Sonics fans's hearts pounding like Sasquatch feet. (I'm sure they'll miss the Storm too, but—well, no, they probably won't.) If that lease agreement doesn't get settled soon, you can count on the Sonics leaving the Pacific Northwest no matter what. If not OKC, maybe Nashville or hey, why not New Jersey when the Nets move to Brooklyn?

Of course, I have a better idea—a King Solomon sort of solution. Let the Hornets and Sonics BOTH move to Oklahoma City. Not as separate teams, because that would be ridiculous. But merge them (and compensate the owners for half each, or buy one out). Neither team made the playoffs last year, but maybe the Oklahoma City SuperHornets could. Chris Paul at the point, Ray Allen at the two, David West at the three, Rashard Lewis at the four and Tyson Chandler at the five? Kick all those young Sonics centers to the D-league for seasoning, send the Hornets's Euros back to Europe, and let the coaching staffs duke it out for superiority. And to make the East and West even, just fold the Raptors, or sell them as an entity to FIBA. Later on you could always expand back to Seattle and New Orleans if it's feasible (and return New Orleans to the East where they should be anyway).

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