by Lang Whitaker

Yesterday afternoon here in New York, the Seattle Sonics were officially raffled off to the venti-sized Oklahoma City ownership group. What does this mean? In the short term, nothing, but in the long term, it could mean very big things. ESPN’s Insider (and Linkstigator) Chris Sheridan attended the meetings and nabbed an interview with Clay Bennett, the guy who’s in charge of the Oklahoma City group. Sheridan writes that he believes Bennett has no intention of keeping the Sonics in Seattle, and he tells Bennett what he thinks. Writes Sheridan:

I came right out and told Bennett that’s what I believed, challenging him to make me change my mind.

He didn’t.

“Our objective is to stay in Seattle. We want to be successful, and we think we have great prospects in Seattle. It has a remarkable economy, it’s an emerging global city and it’s a marketplace that’s in need of the type of asset we’re proposing — a multi-purpose, world-class entertainment facility and related development, and we think we’ll get there,” he said.

Bennett and his ownership group have said they will spend the next year trying to secure a new arena, and all options will be on the table if they fail to get a new building. Bennett wouldn’t go so far as to list those options Tuesday, saying he hasn’t thought about what the endgame might be that far down the road — a statement I’m having a very hard time believing.

“Let me put it to you this way,” I told Bennett. “Everybody in your ownership group is from Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City has proven itself to be a great NBA city, not just viable, but a place where they’re really, really into it. Oklahoma City is not going to be abandoned by the NBA once the Hornets are out of there, so … ”

“You’re asking me to speculate on something I just can’t evaluate,” Bennett said, cutting me off. “Our absolute focus right now is to getting a building built in Seattle. If that gets off track, we’ll have to evaluate our options. And that’s where I am. I mean I understand the circumstances — we’re all from Oklahoma City, we’re civic leaders, we’ve long wanted the NBA, we have an available building, we can influence some sponsorship and sales, but that’s not the deal we’re in. We’re committed to Seattle and committed to the process, absolutely.”

I feel for you Seattle fans, I really do. Is there anything worse than that quote, “committed to the process”? Well of course you’re committed to the process, or you wouldn’t be rounding up millions of dollars. But at the same time, just be straight with the fans in Seattle. Either you’re staying or you’re leaving.