The Sports Guy on Sonics, Oklahoma
Bill Simmons, perhaps better known as The Sports Guy on ESPN.com, was recently interviewed on a Seattle sports talk radio show and weighed in on the Sonics, owner Clay Bennett and Oklahoma City. In the words of talk show host Dave “Softy” Mahler, Simmons has “been more than a friend to Sonics fans” for the work he’s done on ESPN.com, where he recently dumped tons of e-mails from distressed Sonics fans on the Web site’s pages. You can read through part one of Sonics fans letters to Simmons here and part two here.
In this radio interview, Simmons said he doesn’t like the precedent that’s being set, “where a fan base can root for a team for four decades and just have the team taken away because they don’t want to spend a couple hundred million to renovate an arena that they just renovated 13 years ago. I just think that’s scary.”
Here’s an excerpt of the interview….
DSM: What’s been frustrating is that Clayton Bennett comes here and says, ‘OK give me my $500 million Taj Mahal in Renton,’ which is just south of Seattle. He wanted to build a new arena. Any renovation of KeyArena was off the floor, off the table from the get-go. So my question has always been why is a $120 million renovation of the Ford Center OK but not the same thing here in Seattle of KeyArena in a bigger market.
BS: Because he wants to move the team. He bought the team because, I think, he’s one of the most visible people in that Oklahoma community. He’s going to be a hero if he brings the Sonics. The weird thing about his role in this whole thing is the e-mails I get from Oklahoma City people seem to be pretty torn. Like they really want an NBA team, but I don’t think a lot of the people there want a team under these like sleazy circumstances. And that part has been under-reported and I really haven’t read that anywhere. But I’m sure there’s Oklahoma fans that they’re just so happy to get an NBA team they just don’t care. But I do think there’s an element of people out there that do think this is a little sleazy and the wrong way to get it done.
DSM: The mayor of Oklahoma City was on our station last week and he talked about the fact that honestly they’d rather have the Hornets than the Sonics. But because of the Hornets situation and Katrina that’s even more sleazy than this situation, getting a team by way of a natural disaster. It’s a bad situation. What I’m worried about is the old boy’s network. Clayton Bennett’s done so much for the NBA in helping moving the Hornets and what he did for the Spurs. I mean, what if there is a package in place here that is better than the package in Oklahoma City but David Stern just goes to the old boy’s network and sneaks it through anyway?
BS: I’ve thought about that and I’ve thought that one through, and that would not jibe with any of the ways he’s run the league over the last 25 years. I do think that this situation can be salvaged. I just think you need to have somebody come up with an offer where you’re going to basically overpay for the team to get Bennett to walk away. Because if you look at it from his perspective, not only is he going to bring this team to Oklahoma but he also has Durant who is eventually going to be one of the five meal tickets in this league. I think (Durant’s) taken some unfair criticism this season. You just can’t ask for a worse situation for him to go into. He’s 19 years old. He’s playing shooting guard. He’s shooting 22 times a game. He’s playing for a coach that everybody hates. He’s got two point guards that hate each other. I just don’t think you could have thrown him into a worse situation, especially with the team moving. But I think eventually he’s a top five guy. And that’s really one of the cruel parts about this whole thing. If the Sonics leave, you guys have to watch Durant thrive somewhere else and I don’t think anybody deserves that.
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