Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The NBA's Future in OKC

The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets were an amazing success in Oklahoma City last season. Despite moving from last to eleventh in league attendance, and making money for the first time in who knows how long, Hornets owner George Shinn and NBA Commissioner David Stern have remained solid on the Hornets returning to the Big Easy.

Now a new interesting twist has developed in Oklahoma City’s NBA odyssey. An investment group from Oklahoma City has purchased the Seattle Super Sonics for $350 million. Here is what this means;

George Shinn is losing his cash cow. You’ve been fun to watch Chris Paul but it looks like Ray Allen is coming to town. This same investment group tried to by a majority stake in the Hornets earlier this year but was rejected by Shinn who instead is going to move the team back to a half empty arena.

Instead the Sonics will be calling Oklahoma City home after the upcoming NBA season. It’s easy to see once you put the facts together. Consider this;

Clay Bennett, the president of Oklahoma City investment firm Dorchester Capital, was vital to the city's effort to bring the Hornets to the city. He led a group of investors who provided one-third of a $10 million promise to the Hornets if they did not meet or surpass their revenue from 2004-05 by at least 5 percent last season.

"Owning an NBA franchise and a world-class facility in this market is a good place to be," Bennett said about the Sonics. "That said, as you know, I certainly hope that in time, Oklahoma City gets a team, and I think we will."

In February, upon the formation of his investor group in Oklahoma City, Bennett declared: "The bottom line is, we want a team for this market."

Bennett said the new ownership group has a "12-month commitment" to Seattle, in which it will attempt to negotiate for a new arena. He said the group was "sincere" but would evaluate its other options if an agreement for a new arena wasn't reached in that time frame.

Keep in mind that the Sonics were sold because they have been trying for the past two years to reach an agreement on a new arena but were miserably unsuccessful. Bennett nor anyone else in his group has any ties in the state of Washington. Oh yeah and guess what else happens in 12 months? You guessed it! The agreement between the Hornets and Oklahoma City runs out.

Final nail in the coffin for Seattle, "I think everything's on the table after that year, and if we run out of all our options, I'd love to have the team in Oklahoma City," Bennett said. All is not lost for the Emerald City however. Shinn will be looking for a place to move the Hornets in a few years.