For four days now we've been given updates on the city of Seattle and its lawsuit against the Supersonics. According to the city, the Sonics have a contractual obligation to play all home games for the next two years at KeyArena in Seattle. According to the Sonics, the team is going to move anyway and so there's no point playing in a city where they won't turn a profit.
Throughout the case, Brad Keller, attorney for the Sonics, has made several objections, many which have been sustained. Conversely, Paul Lawrence, attorney for the city, has not had as many objections sustained. As the fifth day of the trial commences today, it seems, at least to some, that the fight for the city of Seattle is a losing one and that the Sonics are doomed to leave.
First off, I don't believe the judge has made any decisions yet. She's too meticulous and this is too important of a case for her to just make a decision on four days of testimony. Closing arguments aren't even scheduled until next Thursday. Admittedly, she is growing impatient with Lawrence, scolding him on several occasions for various reasons. But I believe she will continue to consider the evidence that has been presented and then make her decision. Even though the judge may not like Lawrence, she can not deny he has made a solid case. He has effectively shown that Bennett entertained the idea of moving to Oklahoma City well before he was supposed to. He has shown the impact a Sonics move would have on the city from an economic standpoint. He has effectively shown that Bennett didn't do all he could to build a viable successor venue to KeyArena in Seattle. I still believe the city actually has a good chance of winning this case.
But, if in the event the judge rules against the city, and says Bennett can move, to that I say, "So what?" Have we forgotten this isn't the only trial that Bennett has to endure? If all Bennett had to worry about was overcoming a lawsuit by the city of Seattle, things might look gloomy. But in just a few weeks, Bennett will have to return to the courthouse to settle a lawsuit brought on by former Sonics owner Howard Schultz. Schultz is contending that when he sold the team, he was selling to a man who he believed to want to keep the team in Seattle and would do everything possible to ensure that happened. With all the e-mails that have been uncovered that bring doubt to whether Bennett fulfilled his 'good-faith' effort, Schultz feels he was lied to. Consequently, he is suing to force the sale of the Sonics he made to Bennett to be rescinded.
Regardless of what happens with this current lawsuit, Schultz' lawsuit is the one that really matters. For if the judge rules against Bennett in his case with Shultz, Bennett will be forced to sell the team back to local ownership. Then he won't even have a team TO move back to Oklahoma City. Even if the city wins it's case against Bennett, it doesn't really mean anything if the judge rules against Schultz. All we'll get is two final seasons in Seattle before Bennett moves the team. I know some are thinking in two years an arena proposal can come forth. But there's no way Bennett would go along with that. We all know Bennett cares very little about keeping the team in Seattle. We know it's been his goal all along to move it to Oklahoma City. If he's forced to keep the team here for two more years, does anyone really think he's going to let it go? Let's not forget this is the same man who said he'd be willing to leave the Sonics name, history and team colors all in Seattle, unless he was forced to stay two more years. Bennett is an extremely bitter man. So if the NBA board of governors as well as a U.S. District Judge has said he can move the team to Oklahoma City, and that's what he's wanted all along, why would he do anything that would keep the team here?
Anyway, I digress. The point is, for all the hoopla this case has gotten, in the large scheme of things, it really isn't that important. What's important is the result of the Schultz/Bennett case. That will determine who gets the team and ultimately where it plays.