Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was cautiously optimistic after learning of the Sonics' intentions.
"I think ‘patience' is the key word for us,” Cornett said. "This is a step in the process. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a franchise was going somewhere else and they ended up not going anywhere. You've just got to understand that's the way things are.”
Bennett, nonetheless, said his group will begin working with Oklahoma City officials to start preliminary discussions regarding the city's facilities and lease terms, among other things.
Bennett said he is absolutely convinced Oklahoma City can be a viable long-term NBA city, even though it's the nation's 45th-sized market and has only a two-year trial run of professional sports via the temporarily displaced New Orleans Hornets. Bennett cited the success of the Hornets, the city's growing economy and the potential for being the state's only major league team as reasons for his optimism.
"Basketball is the right sport, and the NBA is the right product,” he said. "It's a good fit.”
The Sonics still would need approval from the NBA to relocate if they are allowed to escape the final two years of their KeyArena contract. NBA Commissioner David Stern is expected to begin the relocation process by appointing a committee of no fewer than five governors within 10 days of receiving the relocation application.
Stern has 120 days from the date he receives the application to make a recommendation to the appointed board. The board will vote from seven to 30 days after the recommendation is made. A simple majority vote is needed to allow a franchise to relocate.
Bennett sounded as though he has the support of the league's 29 other owners.
"We understand the fundamental requirement for a building that delivers the revenue streams required to support the business,” he said of the league's owners. "And quite frankly, that supports the operating needs today of teams and players and fans and sponsors. So there is a clear understanding that this team requires a new building to stay in the marketplace.”
Sonics relocation statement