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Seattle’s lead attorney warming to Sonics settlement

By Darnell Mayberry Published: April 22, 2008
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The lead attorney for the city of Seattle is now willing to negotiate a settlement with the Sonics ownership group if those talks include a promise of a replacement franchise by the NBA, according to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, who NBA Commissioner David Stern last week accused of implementing a “scorched-earth policy” against the Sonics, told the newspaper that the city’s best chance at retaining the NBA is securing a replacement franchise for the Oklahoma-bound Sonics.

“While I’d still love to see the Sonics stay, I think that is highly unlikely,” Gorton said. “What we’re trying to accomplish now, in my view, is to get another team in their place.”

NBA owners by a 28-2 margin voted last week to approve the Sonics relocation to Oklahoma City. The Sonics and city of Seattle, however, are currently scheduled to go to trial June 16 in Seattle to settle a lease dispute.

“If a replacement team is part of the package, of course we’d talk,” Gorton told the newspaper. “My goal from the very beginning has been to have a team. Revenge, I’m not interested in as such. The city has a financial stake in all this. The mayor and I are in complete accord that what we want is a team.”

Gorton acknowledged that state leaders in Washington must come up with an arena solution before the NBA would guarantee a franchise to replace the departing Sonics. State leaders recently rejected approving the final $75 million toward a $300-million KeyArena renovation project shared by the city of Seattle and a group of private investors.

“I think the goal of the entire community, and certainly my goal, is to see, whether some time between now and then, there’s a way to come up with a situation in which the controversy over the Sonics is settled in some fashion that Seattle can look forward to another NBA franchise.

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