Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sonic Screwdriver

A court decision is like a coin flip. Not that it is random or capricious, but rather because that when the coin is in the air and resolution is about to be determined, you truly realize what you really want the result to be and what you're willing to do to bring it about.

So it is with the decision for Clay Bennett and the city. The judge was to announce her ruling at 4. Instead she announced that the city and the ownership group have settled without need of her acting like the grown-up.

Here's the short form:
- City gets 45 million, up from the 20 million the owners had previously offered.
- City gets another 30 million if they don't get another NBA club in 5 years, but that depends on the state upgrading Key Arena.
- Bennett gets to go. Now. B'Bye.
- Seattle keeps the name, the colors, and the history, put into storage until the team is reborn.
- The suit from the previous owner, Howard Schultz, that Bennett negotiated is bad faith, is still on. Hopefully Schultz isn't using K&L Gates as his lawyers.
- Both sides declare victory.

That second point is interesting, in that it is a bounce-pass from the city's Republican lawyers to the Democrat-controlled legislature, who is now expected to drive hard to the basket. The problem is, the legislature has been listening to its constituents, who are noticeably cool to the idea of municipal giveaways to groups of wealthy individuals in exchange for their bread and circuses. So this is a challenge - can we find a funding vector that will not bleed public treasury, nail the basketball fans, and hold the (new) owners to responsible behavior?

I'd like to believe there is a way. Now's the time to revisit the Bellevue plan, the Renton plan, and that thing that looks like a trilobite they were talking about near Safeco. Key Arena has a great advantage in that it does fit in with its neighborhood as opposed to being a big box on a parking pad, and it sounds like there are enough concerts and other venues to keep the place going. The key (heh) to a new arena, or refurbishing the Key (again), is finding a funding plan that does not give away the bank.

But something else occurred to me during all this. When the owners were trying to sell the Renton arena idea, they trotted out studies that showed how advantageous the new arena would be to business. But when trying to scoot out of its responsibilities, the same owners trotted out more studies that showed that leaving town would not hurt business in the slightest.

Obviously this means that gaining an NBA franchise generates cash, while losing one incurs no loss. If the NBA is to be believed, they have found the economic equivalent to cold fusion - all gain and no downside.

So here's the plan - the government takes over the NBA - now to be known as the Nationalized Basketball Association. This new NBA would be moved from city to city (they do it now, so the owners can't REALLY complain) in order to speed the economic recovery of cities in hardship. Biloxi hit by a hurricane? Send them the Knicks. There are wildfires outside Corning, California? Patch in the Celtics. Flooding in Iowa? Give Cedar Rapids the Lakers for the season. Since gaining a team is all win, and losing one is no loss, these gypsy teams will go where they are needed, spreading economic largess in their wake.

Yeah, there's probably something wrong with that solution, but it looks great on paper. More later,