Stern acknowledges Sonics' relocation would be hard to reverse
PHILADELPHIA -- NBA commissioner David Stern knows a court order can only keep the SuperSonics in Seattle for the short term.
The Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City -- either next season or in 2010 -- and not even the desperate pleas of the dejected Seattle fans can save their favorite team from leaving this summer or in three years.
"Subject to all lawful orders of the court, the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City, whether it's the end of this season, next season or the season after that," Stern said Friday. "Could I imagine circumstances, without precedent, where some court does something? It would be hard to imagine there would be any circumstances legally that would preclude the Sonics from moving at the end of their lease."
Last week, NBA owners overwhelmingly approved the SuperSonics' move to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season -- provided the team can settle the lawsuit with its hometown for the last 41 years.
The move could be delayed when the U.S. District Court begins hearing the trial June 16 in Seattle over the team's lease dispute. The court could rule for the city and say the Sonics must play in KeyArena for the final two years of the lease.
Stern, who spoke before the Detroit Pistons-Philadelphia 76ers playoff game, said the league is prepared for the Sonics to play two more seasons in Seattle, if that's what the court orders. Last week, Stern said the Sonics would likely lose at $30 million per season in such a situation.
"It wouldn't be optimum for either the NBA, the team or the city, but if that's what it's going to be, that's what it's going to be," Stern said.
There could be more headaches for the Sonics. Damaging e-mails involving Sonics owner Clay Bennett have been revealed that could slow or even stop the team's move.
A filing by the city of Seattle this week in federal court in New York, where the city is seeking the NBA's financial records and a deposition of Stern, includes e-mails to and from Bennett that show the NBA was concerned last summer that Sonics owners may be breaching their contractual promise of good-faith efforts to find a new arena in Seattle.
"I think, ultimately, despite the novel and face-saving attempts to construct cause of action, that the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma," Stern said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press