Links: Saving The Sonics

by Lang Whitaker

I know we’re only a few days into the NBA season, but I’ve already found an NBA team that probably won’t be very good but that I really enjoy watching. Ladies and gentlemen, the Seattle SuperSonics! Why? Three superficial reasons…

1. Linkstigator Nick Collison plays for them.

2. Kevin Durant plays for them.

3. Their coach once yelled at a player so much that the player snapped and tried to choke the life out of him.

But there’s more than that: There’s a city at stake here. The Sonics announced today that they’re applying to move to Oklahoma City. It’s been rumored forever, but now it’s official.

You guys know I’m an Atlanta Hawks fan, and the Hawks have been terrible for a really long time. But somehow, they’ve managed to stay in Atlanta. When the franchise went up for sale a few years ago, my biggest fear was that someone from out of town would buy the Hawks and move them. Luckily some guys from Atlanta were able to put some investors together and keep the team in The A. Unluckily, the investors have spent most of the time since then battling the ownership out in court. Still, the team has stayed in Atlanta.

Seattle hasn’t been so lucky. Howard Schultz sold the team to some guys from Oklahoma City, and many Sonics fans have held that against Schultz, but I find it hard to fault him. He’s a businessman who can make a mean cup of coffee, and it’s his right to sell whatever he wants to sell to whomever he wants to peddle it to. And who knows, maybe Clay Bennett and his Oklahoma crew promised Schultz they’d keep the team in Seattle?

Whatever happened, it happened, and now the Sonics look like a lock to be moving on. On TNT last night during the Sonics/Suns game, they showed a series of people-on-the-street interviews with the citizens of Seattle, who almost all said they hoped the team stayed in Seattle. I have no particular affiliation with the Sonics, but out of respect for the people of Seattle and hoops history, I’m not sure what the fans of Seattle have done to deserve losing their team. They won’t come out in droves and pay a lot of money to support a team that has had no chance of winning an NBA title for over a decade now?

The sad thing is, a lot of owners would rather move their franchise than move the money required to build a winner (George Shinn, stand up!). I guess they think the fans don’t notice that they’re just after the cash. If the Sonics move to Oklahoma City, maybe the fans will come out in droves for a while due to the novelty of it all, but eventually they’ll tire of losing, too. The only way to ensure you sell out your building night after night, year after year, is to win games.

The Sonics, as presently constructed, probably won’t win a lot of games this season. They have a good core of guys, but they are very young and they aren’t very deep. For this team to win a lot of games in the East, it’s going to take time and patience, which is the one thing the Sonics fans aren’t being afforded the luxury of having.

But there’s still one way the Sonics might be able to stay in Seattle: What if they came out and just played really hard, every single night. They won’t win every night, but they’ll make games close, at least through three quarters before all the vets on the other teams start getting all the calls. Most importantly, if the Sonics can play all season with the same energy and passion they’ve shown in their first two games, I think they’ll create at the very least some appreciation from the people in Seattle.

Will that translate into buzz, which could translate into attendance, which should translate into cash, which might translate into the Sonics ownership keeping their promise and doing everything in their power to keep the Sonics around Seattle?

I don’t know, but it’s sure going to be fun to watch. I’m pulling for ya, Seattle.