The Portland Trail Blazers sit wedged between two warring NBA cities.
Make that one NBA city warring with Seattle for courting their team. Sound familiar?
You've got to feel for them both.
No city wants an identity as a stepping-stone, or ignorant rube, but that's what happened when Portland's superior sister flushed a major sport out of town.
How much does the Emerald City need the NBA?
Not bad enough to go after the Blazers, but bad enough for the vulture position over the Sacramento Kings.
They're waiting for safe pickings.
One day the Kings belong to Seattle. Then everything flops around and they're staying put. New ownership groups with golden wings swoop around, but the prey won't lie still enough for them to dig in. They won't die.
Neither will the bad blood in Seattle and that might be the problem.
Former NBA owner Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame knows his coffee, but not his Oklahoma businessmen. He sold the Sonics to Clay Bennett with a clause that required Bennett to make a good faith effort to keep the team in Seattle. That's their story.
What's a good faith effort worth? About $500 million dollars or the cost of the Sonics arena Bennett proposed. When it was turned down, the NBA relocation committee voted to move the Sonics to Oklahoma and Thunder Nation.
Before he left, Seattle turned on Bennett like a snake on a rat. He couldn't attend Sonics games due to the venom spewed towards him. He was shocked by the ill will. It must have been awful during that wet, hate-filled, winter for a man of the Great Plains.
What sustained him where others give up? He knew his basketball business and his Oklahoma City audience. He knew how to make a deal and get it done. And he knew the Seattle poison worked both ways.
Five years later, the biggest relocation news moves the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.
In a cruel twist, Sonics/Thunder owner Clay Bennett is the chairman of the NBA relocation committee, the leader of the group blocking the Kings' move to Seattle.
Oklahoma City slicker Bennett out-maneuvered the international coffee tycoon and the rest of the smart money in Seattle. Where were Bill Gates and the amazon.com guy? Now he's doing it again. He took their taunts and barbs and their team. He got what he came for, now he's giving back.
How did Mr. Bennett get so slick, and how can Seattle learn from him?
• Do it from the inside out.
Bennett had an ownership stake in the small market dynasty San Antonio Spurs. He spoke for the Spurs on the NBA Board of Governors. This model of stability and championship runs taught Bennett how things get done in the NBA. Will the potential new owners of the Kings/Sonics show up when it counts? Did former Sonics owner Schultz show up? Clay Bennett shows up.
• Be smart.
The 6'5" Steve Ballmer has NBA size, but what about his quicks and handles? How will the Microsoft CEO match up against the crafty Bennett? If it's an academic competition, Ballmer attended Harvard and Stanford. Bennett's wiki page and the education block on his Dorchester Capitol Corp bio lists no education, or height. That's why he interprets 'dealing in good faith' differently than others.
• Build it and they will come.
Chris Hansen is swinging the hammer on Seattle's Rose Garden.
The final question before moving the Kings to Seattle is how will the fans respond? After learning how to lose a team, Seattle needs to take another page from Clay Bennett and the Oklahoma Thunder.
Last year they were voted the #1 team of all professional sports.
The Blazers came in 81st out of 122 listed on the same poll, but it was the first year of new management.
The Sacramento Kings? 121st.
Why not take notes on what OKC is doing right, and start from there?
From ESPN.com: "Oklahoma City doesn't have the luxury of choosing profits over people. And at the moment, like the previous No. 1 teams in our standings, it's brewing a perfect storm of exciting, homegrown players, low prices and nonstop connection to the team.
You might even call it a Thunderstorm."
They'll never call it a Thunderstorm in Seattle. Do it right and call it a Sonic Boom.
If the Kings don't work out, the Charlotte Bobcats came in at 120 on the same ESPN poll.