Piece by piece, Oklahoma City's NBA franchise comes together, and yes, it seems slower than a jigsaw. A radio contract here, a deal with Tulsa's D-League team there.
We're more than a month removed from the celebration announcement that the Sonics were leaving Seattle, yet the franchise has no name, no colors, no tickets for sale and no noticeable staff on the ground. The season starts in about 15 minutes. Isn't it time to panic? No, says Clay Bennett. The task at hand is daunting but not overwhelming, says the Not-the-Sonics chairman. Bennett is being judged off the Hornet invasion of September 2005. Katrina swamped New Orleans, the Hornets found refuge in Oklahoma City and everyone pitched in to make the NBA work on the fly. If the Hornets could arrive on Sept. 21 and host the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 1, surely Bennett could get around to naming his team or hanging out a shingle in the five weeks since Seattle gave up the ghost. But there's a big difference. The Hornets were temporary. Decisions had a statute of limitations. Good or bad, they would run out. The Not-the-Sonics are permanent. The NBA and OKC and Bennett himself have to live with his decisions. "You can make bad decisions if it's temporary,” Bennett said. "We're making decisions for the very long haul.” Ticket prices, name, colors, radio/TV deals, sponsorship agreements, Ford Center redevelopment deals. All decisions that must be made with a long-term view. "Obviously, we'd love to be selling merchandise,” Bennett said. "But we have to go through the appropriate steps. These are decisions that are being made for the long term.” I want the team to be named yesterday, too. But Bennett offers two suggestions. 1. The angst over name and tickets is media-driven. Yes, the public has huge interest in both but doesn't see the wait as a calamity. 2. The wait — the speculation — can be entertaining, too. "To me, it's part of the ride, part of the experience,” Bennett said.
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