In my mind, last week's announcement of a potential arena deal in Seattle marked the official beginning of the "Return Our Sonics" movement in Seattle. With a tangible plan in place to construct a $500 million arena in South Downtown (SoDo), Sonics fans got the final indication from the city, the state, and the 1% that they were actually serious about bringing professional basketball back to the Emerald City. As such, fans allowed themselves a small bit of giddiness -- a glorious emotion that has certainly been lacking since the Sonics left town -- and even started speculating about teams that might come fill the void that the current-Thunder had left. Most presumed the Sacramento Kings, who nearly moved to Anaheim last year, and were struggling to come to an agreement about a new arena to house the team, represented the best chance for professional basketball's return in Seattle.
However, those hopes of seeing Tyreke Evans driving down the late in Sonics' green and gold, and the thrill of trading away DeMarcus Cousins for pennies on the dollar all came crashing down today in Sacramento. As of a few hours ago, the Sacramento Kings and the City of Sacramento came to a tentative agreement on an arena deal. The arena, which will reportedly be built in downtown Sacramento, will be funded jointly by the Maloof family ($70 million up front, with $70-$100 million due over the term of the contract), Arena-sponsor AEG ($60 million) and private businesses and corporations who have invested in parking garages around the arena ($293 million). Provided the NBA owners approve the deal at their board meeting on March 1, and the City of Sacramento okays that agreement at a council meeting on March 6, the Kings will remain in California's capital city for at least the next twenty-five years. Kings fans are already rejoicing.
And they should. Both the fans and the city fought to keep the team, and their jubilation stands in pleasant contrast to the somber mood that marked the end of the 2010-2011 season in Sacto. But just like that, the dream is dead in Seattle. At this point, it seems unlikely that there will be a Seattle Kings franchise here in the 206, and that's a good thing. However, that's only this week's dream. With each passing week, reports will come out about a new team in dire financial straits, or a new owner that is potentially thinking about putting his franchise on the market. And additionally, with each passing week, new reports will come out pertaining to the proposed Seattle Arena, and eventually, ground will be broken. We will also see dispatches from other wanton NBA outposts, such as Anaheim, who are fighting to bring a team to their fertile gardens. Indeed, while the Kings option has been removed from the table, many other options still remain. And furthermore, with the economy in dire straits, and the NBA (according to NBA commissioners Stern and Silver) popular but not yet profitable, it is likely that other options will present themselves in the future.
With that long term view in mind, The Diss is proud to present the "Seattle Sonics Optimism Guide". This guide will present a report that should help past, present, and future fans of the Seattle Sonics manage their optimism levels in these crazy times. It will look at teams that are being fed into the relocation machine, and assess their relative possibilities of moving to Seattle, and becoming the Seattle SuperSonics, reborn. Optimism levels are based on a one-to-ten scale, with one being the lowest level of optimism, and ten the highest. I will try to complete a report every week so long as the winds of relocation are a-blowin'.
So, without any further ado, the first edition of the Seattle Sonics Optimism Guide.
This Week, Our Best Chance to Break Another City's Heart Is:
|The New Orleans Hornets|
The New Orleans Hornets, and though it doesn't look like a great shot, it's still probably too early to write it off. Reports started coming out over All-Star Weekend that the NBA, who have owned the Hornets since early in the 2010-2011 season, are close to completing a sale of the team. The buyer is reported to be Raj Bhathal, a 72-year old who made his riches in swimwear. He is heading up an ownership group that includes former World League of American Football franchise owner Larry Benson, and former NBA player, coach and executive Mike Dunleavy. There is a definite "good news, bad news" element to this story (if you're interested in bringing basketball back to Seattle). The "good news" is that Bhathal is not based in New Orleans -- he's based in Los Angeles. The "bad news" is that the NBA is giving Bhathal a relative deal on the franchise in exchange for a pledge that he will keep the team in New Orleans. Additionally, Stern said repeatedly over the weekend that the NBA's primary goal was to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. However, nothing's been completed yet, and lots of owners have pledged to keep a team in a city and then moved them in the end. Just ask, well, Seattle.
Optimism Level: 5
Our Next Best Shot Is:
|The Charlotte Bobcats|
Hard to say. The Hornets are the only vulnerable team, and their situation may be resolved soon. The Charlotte Bobcats could be a candidate. Forbes lists the Bobcats as the NBA's 26th most valuable franchise (out of 30). Their debt/value ratio is at troubling 54%, and they only pull in $101 million worth of revenue each season, which is 24th in the league. Though they play in a relatively new arena, and are owned by the most recognizable athlete in the world, this certainly doesn't guarantee their long term success in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. The Jordan brand is popular, but global brands have failed before (see: Reebok; Iverson, Allen). And, most importantly, the Bobcats are terrible, and have begun the long, slow process of rebuilding through the draft. Given that professional basketball has failed in Charlotte before, the Bobcats are always an option.
Optimism Level: 3
Essentially Out Of The Running Is:
|The Sacramento Kings|
The aforementioned Sacramento Kings. The presumed arena deal all but keeps them in Sacramento until at least 2037. Good for them, and congratulations to Kings fans everywhere. Again: no fan should ever experience the pain of losing a team (unless they stop going to games, and leave it up to the uncaring hands of capitalism).
Optimism Level: 1 (in case things go wrong on March 1 or March 6)
|The Memphis Grizzlies|
Perhaps the Memphis Grizzlies. Michael Heisley continues to own the team from Chicago, Illinois, and continues to search for a local buyer in Memphis. To date, no one has stepped up. If Seattle built a state-of-the-art arena, and the Grizzlies started to lose ball games, I could see Heisley considering a sale, or a move. However, chances of either of those seem relatively low, given that the Fed Ex Forum was just built in 2004 and the Grizzlies seem poised to be competitive for years. This might be a franchise to revisit in three seasons, if they remain unprofitable.
Optimism Level: 0.001