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Sonics only team that can relocate to city
45-day window closes without Hornets applying

By Darnell Mayberry Published: January 6, 2008
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Any alleged race for Oklahoma City between the Seattle SuperSonics and the New Orleans Hornets is over.

The Sonics won.

NBA rules state that once a team applies to relocate to a city, the league's 29 other franchises have 45 days to apply to that same city. Clay Bennett, chairman of the Sonics' Oklahoma-based ownership group, applied to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City on Nov. 2.

So if the Hornets — who rank last in the league in attendance in their full-time return to New Orleans after playing the bulk of the past two seasons at the Ford Center — wanted to come back to Oklahoma City next season they would have had to apply to the NBA in writing by Dec. 17.

"No one else applied in the 45 days after, so we'll only review the Sonics' application for this year,” said NBA spokesman Tim Frank.

The NBA's seven-member relocation committee will now make a recommendation to the board of governors in April. The board will then vote on the move no sooner than seven days and no later than 30 days after the recommendation is made. A majority vote is needed to allow the Sonics to move.

It's unclear how the NBA will proceed given the Sonics' pending federal court case with the city of Seattle, although a deferred vote is unlikely since NBA rules clearly state the vote must be made no later than 30 days after the recommendation.

If the relocation request is approved, that seemingly would leave the Hornets out of Oklahoma City's future. At least one team source has confirmed that Hornets owner George Shinn has looked into relocation options. Through 15 home games in New Orleans, the Hornets are averaging just 11,871 fans. During its first season in Oklahoma, the team averaged 18,168 fans a game, ranking 11th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance. They ranked 15th with an average of 17,830 fans a game in Year 2.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, however, said he hasn't spoken with Shinn or representatives of the Hornets about a potential return.

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