SEATTLE SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett could end up paying $75 million to move the NBA franchise to Oklahoma City this year, and he won't be taking the team's name or colors with him.
Bennett agreed to settle a lawsuit with the city of Seattle, bringing an end to a contentious relationship that resulted in a trial in which the judge was due to issue her ruling Wednesday.
"We believe this is a fair and appropriate resolution to the litigation involving the Sonics and the city of Seattle," Bennett said. "We are pleased that the uncertainty is lifted for our players, staff and Oklahoma City fans who can now make plans for the immediate future."
Bennett announced that the settlement calls for a payment of $45 million immediately and would include another $30 million paid to Seattle in 2013 unless the state Legislature in Washington authorizes at least $75 million in public funding to renovate KeyArena by the end of 2009 or Seattle obtains an NBA franchise of its own within the next five years.
Bennett said he and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels signed a binding agreement Wednesday, which would be formalized later, that keeps the SuperSonics' name, logo and colors available if Seattle gets a replacement franchise.
"I was always amenable, as part of a negotiation process, to reserving the name for Seattle fans. I feel it's appropriate and we wish Sonics fans and the City good luck in their efforts to develop a modern NBA arena and return pro basketball to Seattle in the future," Bennett said.
The settlement came six days after the trial concluded, and allows the NBA franchise to head to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season. In April, the NBA Board of Governors approved Bennett's application to move the team to Oklahoma City, pending the outcome of the trial between the team and the city.
The trial was centered on the lease agreement between the city and the team that called for the Sonics to play at KeyArena through the 2009-10 season.
Sonics lead attorney Brad Keller contended that Bennett should simply be able to write a check to satisfy the final two years of the lease. Keller argued that the "specific performance" clause the city rested its case on should not apply in a garden-variety dispute between tenant and landlord.
During the trial, the Sonics also made much of what they called underhanded tactics designed to drain Bennett financially and keep the team in Seattle.Bennett and his ownership group, the Oklahoma City-based Professionally Basketball Club LLC, previously offered to pay the city $26.5 million in February to buy out the final two years of the lease. They were rebuffed, and now could end up paying nearly three times that much.
JOHNSON READY: Ron Johnson spent 32 years in the military leading people through difficult situations. He quickly found another challenge when he retired from the Army.
Johnson is the NBA's new senior vice president of referee operations, where the two-star general will oversee a department that has spent the last year dealing with the fallout from the scandal involving Tim Donaghy, who pleaded guilty to betting on games he officiated and later accused some former colleagues of misconduct."This is an incredible leadership challenge," Johnson said Wednesday during a phone interview. "Leading soldiers or people, I'm used to my people being dispersed across the country, but there's some intermediate leader there in charge of them. But we've got 60 highly talented people ... and there's a different leadership challenge there, so I'm excited about how I'm going to do that."
BEASLEY LEAVES PRACTICE: Michael Beasley's first official practice with the Miami Heat ended quickly. Beasley was struck in the chest by an inadvertent elbow during a defensive drill about 45 minutes into Miami's first summer-league workout session Wednesday, and the No. 2 overall pick in last week's NBA draft was taken to a doctor for observation. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the move was strictly precautionary and should not affect Beasley's availability for Miami's five-games-in-five-days run through the Orlando summer league, which opens Monday. "He took a shot to the chest," Spoelstra said. "He probably could have finished if it was the regular season or something like that, but we just wanted to be safe."
Spoelstra said he wasn't absolutely certain which Heat summer player was the one that struck Beasley.
"I looked and one minute he was there and the next minute he was gone," Heat guard Daequan Cook said. "I have no idea what happened."The team did not immediately release an update on the extent of Beasley's injury or what sort of tests were being performed on the rookie, who averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds last season for Kansas State.
NETS SIGN FIRST-ROUND PICKS: The New Jersey Nets have signed their two first-round draft picks. Team president Rod Thorn announced the signings of Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson on Wednesday. The Nets selected Lopez with their top pick at No. 10. He led Stanford in scoring at 19 points per game last season. Anderson was selected with the 21st pick, which New Jersey received as part of the trade that sent Jason Kidd to Dallas. Anderson led the Pac-10 in scoring last season with an average of 21 points per game.
PERKINS HAS SURGERY: Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins underwent surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday to repair an injury that nagged him during the NBA finals and forced him to miss Game 5.
The Celtics said Perkins, 23, had arthroscopic surgery at New England Baptist Hospital, as did rookie Bill Walker, who had damage to his right knee repaired Wednesday.
The NBA champions said both procedures, led by team physician Dr. Brian McKeon, were successful. No timetable has been set for Perkins' and Walker's off-season returns to the Celtics, but Perkins' agent, Bob Myers, said Wednesday that Perkins will spend the next couple months rehabilitating, and "just wants to get ready for training camp at this point."