Storm focusing on games, not Seattle arena situation
SEATTLE -- Anne Donovan, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson all claim it's not a distraction.
Yet Friday night could be the last regular season game in Seattle for the Storm, as the future of the WNBA franchise and their NBA brethren SuperSonics continues to be a lingering question.
Seattle is already assured of at least one home playoff game next week -- most likely against Phoenix -- but Friday's fan appreciation night could have a little more meaning for a city that's already lost one women's professional basketball team when the ABL folded in late 1998, taking away the Seattle Reign.
"Things like this in my opinion are so out of my hands, so out of Anne's hands, so out of Lauren's, you go down the list. Whether or not I lose sleep over it is not going to have an effect on what happens," Bird said Thursday. "So it's really not something I even think about. It's one of those things that come October I'll have more to talk about."
The Oklahoma City-based ownership group that owns the Sonics and Storm, headed by Clay Bennett, wants to have an agreement by Oct. 31 to build a new arena in the Seattle area to replace KeyArena. If such a deal is not in place by then, Bennett has said he plans to file relocation papers with the NBA to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City.
There's been no definitive statement made about the Storm's future, but Bennett has indicated he has no intention of splitting the franchises.
"Once in a while it gets brought up and we talk about it, but it's going to take care of itself," Bird said. "It doesn't really affect us on a day-to-day basis."
After the Washington Legislature adjourned in April without taking action on a measure to help pay for a new $500 million arena that Bennett wants, the owner said, "Clearly at this time the Sonics and [WNBA] Storm have little hope of remaining in the Puget Sound region."
There's been little change in the tenor of comments from the ownership group since. Earlier this week, minority owner Aubrey McClendon told the Journal Record in Oklahoma City that the Professional Basketball Club LLC bought the franchises with the hope of moving the teams to Oklahoma City, while acknowledging they could make more money in Seattle.
The Storm are taking deposits on 2008 season tickets -- although the deposit includes a refund guarantee -- but attendance is down from the past two seasons.
Bird and Jackson can both become unrestricted free agents after the season. Bird would like to remain in Seattle, but says she's up for playing wherever. Jackson has been more adamant about her desire to continue playing here, saying before the season it's her hope to end her career playing in Seattle.
Unless an arena deal is struck, or Bennett changes his plans and considers selling the Storm to a local buyer, Jackson may have to change her plan.
"I've said what I want to do publicly," Jackson said. "I can't focus on it right now."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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