Sonics owners exchanged e-mails last April suggesting their desire to move the NBA team to Oklahoma City, according to e-mails obtained by lawyers for the city of Seattle.
The e-mails came at a time when team owners were publicly indicating a willingness to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The exchange began one day after the Washington legislature declined to vote on a $500 million arena plan, a move Sonics chairman Clay Bennett called “quite likely a debilitating blow to our efforts to develop a world-class facility.”
In an e-mailed conversation between Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward dated April 17-19, 2007, the owners shared their desires to have the team in Oklahoma City for the start of the current 2007-08 NBA season.
The e-mails were obtained during the city of Seattle’s discovery process in its pending federal court case against the team and were first reported by The Seattle Times. At the time of e-mail exchange, Bennett publicly had granted Seattle officials until Oct. 31, 2007 to come up with a new arena plan to replace the outdated KeyArena.
“Is there any way to move here for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?” Ward wrote.
Bennett replied: “I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!”
Ward: “That’s the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball here next year.”
McClendon: “Me too, thanks Clay!”
McClendon was fined $250,000 by the NBA for comments last August when he told The Journal Record that the ownership group “hoped to come here” when they bought the team.
Bennett declined comment on Thursday.
The league will hold its owners meetings next week in New York City, and two NBA sources have confirmed that the owners will vote on the move next Friday.
NBA bylaws state that league owners must vote on relocation applications no sooner than seven days after an appointed relocation committee makes a recommendation to the board of governors and no later than 30 days. A majority of the league’s 30 owners is needed for final approval.
How the e-mails might impact June’s trial is unclear, however.
Attorneys for the city of Seattle first sought to obtain e-mails from the ownership group’s eight members in early February.