Weekly Countdown: It's a moving experience for OKC franchise
5 Things to do before moving an NBA team
The franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics has, as of today, less than three months to get ready for training camp. And that doesn't just mean getting their players in shape and filling out the rest of the roster. It also means ...
5. Deciding who they are. Are they the old Sonics with a new name? (In which case why don't they hyphenate their name like so many married modern couples? They can be the Oklahoma City Sonics-Airmen ... in which case their official car should be a Volvo station wagon with a soccer mom sticker on the back bumper.) Or are they an expansion franchise?
My own feeling is that whatever the Oklahoma team decides to call itself -- and whatever that name becomes, it won't be the Sonics -- it should consider itself a brand new outfit. When you open the media guide to the "History'' section, there should be no mention of what the Sonics did for the last 41 years. Type up a short narrative detailing how the hurricane-displaced Hornets played for a couple of years in Oklahoma City and how they created the appetite for the team moving there now, and leave it at that.
I'm aware that owner Clay Bennett negotiated the rights to the Sonics' history, but what good is to him? It's a stain that only serves to remind everyone of the e-mails and lawsuits and outrage of how he left Seattle behind. It raises the question, Why would anyone leave Seattle to move to a smaller market like Oklahoma City? Under the current circumstances, does he really want to revisit year after year the mess he helped make?
He should view this as an entirely fresh start and honor the fans in Seattle by leaving to them the achievements of the Sonics' 41 years. To this day, I look at what the Baltimore Colts accomplished with Johnny Unitas and their other Hall of Famers, and I still don't know if that history should be associated with the team in Indianapolis. I imagine that the fans in Baltimore see no relationship between the old Colts of Unitas and the new Colts of Peyton Manning; the fans in Baltimore have remarried themselves to their Ravens now. Bennett should leave the past in Seattle and build a new identity for his team in Oklahoma. That will be a big enough job as it is.
4. Finding a gym. On Thursday, general manager Sam Presti was touring Oklahoma City in search of a practice facility for his team with no name. In fact, he's searching for two facilities: an existing building in which the team will practice next season, and then a plot of land where the team will build a permanent facility for future years.
"We need to find a place for our players to play, because they're going to be coming here in a little while,'' said Presti, who called me in between visits to a variety of sites. "The first thing Kevin Durant asked me is, 'Where are we practicing?' Because he wants to work out.''
At 32, Presti is the league's youngest GM. The job was big enough when he was changing over the roster and acquiring draft picks and cap space. Now he's looking for a practice facility. He's also managing the relocation of the players and staff, he's moving the offices from Seattle, and he's still developing the roster while he and his staff search for free agents and scout the summer leagues.
"We're going to a place where they're hungry for basketball,'' Presti said. "We're going to give them a young team that they can get behind. I am excited by that. What we're trying to do here is bigger than basketball. We're moving a franchise in a short amount of time, but we're going to get it done.''
3. Coming up with the new team name. This is a ridiculous exercise in lawyering and marketing and all of the things that traditional fans hate about sports today. I personally have no interest in this topic. All of the good names are already taken. When you start giving teams names like "Devil Rays'' and "Thrashers'' and "Blue Jackets'' -- not to mention naming teams after concepts like the "Wild'' or "Magic,'' or giving them schizophrenic identities like the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim'' -- it means there are too many teams.
And don't get me started on how wrong it is to call a team the "Redskins.''
2. Hiring new employees. The basketball people will move, of course; they're used to being traded or fired and looking for new jobs every few years or sooner. But the people who sell tickets and court sponsors and provide customer service will be predominantly new hires. As they should be. This is going to be a new market with entirely different sensibilities from the audience that used to be served by the Sonics.
1. Rehabilitate the image of the owner. This will be the easiest part. As much as Bennett is despised in Seattle, so will he be revered in Oklahoma. They are going to appreciate that he delivered the team to his home state. He'll actually be able to start attending his team's games.