By Mike Sherman
Well, at least some folks in Seattle are talking settlement.
Last week Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz walked to the scorer’s table. Late Tuesday, Schultz checked into the game, filing the lawsuit his lawyer threatened last week. Schultz seeks to void sale and have the Sonics returned to him.
In this blog, Seattle Times’ Percy Allen promises more juicy emails that will put Clay Bennett in hot water again. And maybe they’ve got them. But it’s hard to see where the email claim made in the lawsuit — that Bennett told fellow owners that they could “flip” the Sonics if they got an arena built and still get a team for Oklahoma City — breaches the good-faith promise.
If the Oklahoma City-based owners had secured a new arena, thus securing the future of an NBA franchise in Seattle for another 30 years or so, then turned around and sold them, here’s what would have happened: People in the Northwest would be hailing Bennett, not cursing his name.
Seattle would have a new arena, it’s beloved Sonics and probably a local owner. And Clay Bennett could have gone to the NBA with this case: As part of the Spurs ownership group in 1992, he helped stabilize the franchise and secure its future in San Antonio. As part of a local investors group, he helped bring the Hornets to Oklahoma City, stabilizing a franchise that was floundering before Hurricane Katrina. And as the chairman of the Sonics ownership group, he would have saved basketball in Seattle.
With those three accomplishments in hand, Bennett could have gone to the NBA and asked, “Now what can you do for my hometown?” Still, two out of three ain’t bad.
There’s quite a few people, including our man Berry Tramel, who think Howard is just trying to save face. Can’t see why that would be any motivation, other than the fact that a Seattle Times poll last week named Schultz as the person most to blame if the Sonics leave Seattle.
It’s going to be interesting to hear legal experts — especially those beyond Washington and Oklahoma — weigh in on the merits of this case. Of course, ESPN has its own, and it doesn’t sound like Lester Munson is buying the face-saving scenario.