Sonics face potential finale in Seattle


Nick Collison is Midwestern at his core. He was raised in the cornfields of Iowa, educated at Kansas and has a basketball work ethic to match his humble background.

But bring up his current home and Collison rattles off the qualities and amenities he cherishes about Seattle: its summertime weather, scenery, diversity, activities.

"I love it here," said Collison, who owns two homes in the area.

Next year, he might not be living in either.

The Seattle SuperSonics will complete their 41st season in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday night when they host Dallas. Awaiting them afterward will be an uncertain offseason that has players wondering where they will play in the fall.

Will they be in Seattle for two more seasons until the team's lease at KeyArena runs out? Or will owner Clay Bennett succeed in moving the team to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season?

"I'm watching it like everyone else," Collison said. "I'll definitely be disappointed if we have to move. I love it here for a lot of reasons. But I also accept the fact that being in the NBA you can't control 100 percent where you're going to be."

To expedite the franchise's relocation, Bennett still needs approval from the NBA board of governors and victory in June in a court case with the city over the final two years of the team's lease, which runs through 2010.

He is pushing the issue, having already made one offer to buy out the remainder of the lease. Another offer is expected after the NBA's owners meet and before the June trial.

If successful, the final season in Seattle will be remembered as the most dismal in franchise history, with the team assured of its worst record ever, often playing before an apathetic fan base convinced the team is moving.

Should this be the end, the Sonics will be remembered as a deconstructed team in the infancy of a rebuilding process centered around rookie stars Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. the time they contend again, the team is likely to be in Oklahoma.

"It doesn't really surprise me that a team would up and move. It's all about money and that's what everything is pretty much based on in our country," said Portland coach Nate McMillan, whose No. 10 hangs in the rafters of KeyArena as one of a handful of uniforms retired by the franchise. "If you don't have the money or put up the money, then things will change."

Claiming that KeyArena is outdated and unprofitable, Bennett has steadfastly backed up his threats to move the franchise since the day he purchased the team from Howard Schultz, Starbucks' chief executive.

Bennett announced his intent to file for relocation in November after he failed to get backing in the state legislature for renovations to KeyArena or plans to build a new arena.

Momentum for the move has continued to build, even as fleeting efforts to find an arena solution in Seattle have emerged. Bennett's final step with the league is getting approval when the NBA board of governors meets Thursday and Friday.

"I was really concerned with how fast the sale of the franchise happened," said Houston assistant Jack Sikma, a former Seattle assistant and player who also had his jersey retired. "When it sold to an out of town contingent that just happens to have a facility in their hometown, that has shown it can have some success hosting an NBA team ... I had some level of self-denial for a while, but after time it became pretty apparent that's the end game."

McMillan and Sikma are among the vocal, but mostly powerless, majority within the league that have expressed their displeasure with the thought of losing Seattle as an NBA city.

Among the others who have actively voiced their displeasure: Steve Nash, Shaquille O'Neal, George Karl and Charles Barkley, not to mention a slew of former Seattle prep and college stars who could miss out on the chance to play in their hometown.

The Sonics players will enter the offseason anticipating the June trial and possibly boning up on real estate in Oklahoma.

A normal summer for coach P.J. Carlesimo would include regularly talking with his players, and making sure they're following their offseason workout plans, but not necessarily seeing much of them. That will change if the Sonics move.

"If we move, we'll see them a ton. We'll all be in the same boat," Carlesimo said. "If we move, it will all be going down and getting acclimated and looking at neighborhoods, and I'm sure meeting media and people down there."

At the earliest, it will be late June or early July before the players find out where they'll be next season.

"To be honest with you, I really don't know what's going on besides what I hear from (the media)," guard Earl Watson said. "We should be involved knowing the information."

Collison and guard Luke Ridnour are the players most entrenched in the city, as the longest tenured Sonics. Both were part of the 2003 draft and each lives in Seattle year round.

Ridnour grew up just two hours north of the city, in Blaine, Wash. His life has completely played out in the Northwest, from his youth, to college and now as a professional.

"It's something that it's just been a blessing to be here (and) to have all that close," Ridnour said. "I've always understood, and my wife does to, whatever happens it's a business, you've got to be ready for whatever."

Collison and Ridnour are the exception on Seattle's roster. Most players are new and have little connection to the franchise or city. The team is bound for the lottery again, likely drafting a player who lacks ties to Seattle's 41 years in the NBA.

Durant, for one, enjoys the laid-back attitude he finds in the city, along with the scenery and people. And he hasn't even been here for a full summer yet, slogging through a losing season during the grayest time of Seattle's soggy calendar.

"It's comfortable," Durant said. "But it's not up to me. I don't have control over it. It would be tough just to get up and leave and try and find a new spot."

Share This Story