Drowsy Pacific Northwest NBA fans caught an elbow to the ribs last Tuesday when the NBA lottery pinged instead of ponged, vaulting two needy franchises to the front of the line.
Turns out the Portland Trail Blazers will pick first in the draft, meaning they will select a 7-footer with the Socrates beard, Ohio State's Greg Oden. The news Portland will have the top pick was enough to crash the team's Web site and sell a million dollars in seats the following day.
More important is the revelation a stagnant Seattle franchise will pick second, enabling it to wrangle a local headline away from the buffoons on American Idol. The percentages said Seattle would end up with the sixth pick, and also be leaving town following the 2007-08 season. The move to No. 2 re-routed planes and hopefully pried open checkbooks that could lead to the Sonics staying in the Seattle area.
The first step comes when elongated Texas forward Kevin Durant is selected by Seattle in the draft on June 28. Then, if the Sonics re-sign talented Rashard Lewis in the offseason, if the Sonics hire a coach of some recognition, if the Sonics bring in someone who plays some form of defense, next season is a revival.
But it takes at least three ifs for the Sonics to start the snowball down the mountain. Not to mention a new arena.
While attempting to find a home and the funds for a new venue, the Sonics are dealing with a crabby state legislature which is dealing with a non-conformist populace. Hearing the word "tax" has tripled sales of muskets in town.
Sonics owner Clay Bennett, stoic folk from Oklahoma, needs Durant to be the $300 million man. Lee Majors won't be enough.
Bennett has said he will opt out of the Sonics existing deal with KeyArena following next season. Up to now, the closest Bennett has come to an arena deal in the Puget Sound area came in the city of Renton, south of Seattle. A new, $500 million multi-purpose arena was proposed. The city would ante up $100 million, as would Bennett. The remaining $300 million was to come from taxpayers. But the state legislature, led by Speaker Frank Chopp, worked ferociously to squash any attempt to have King County residents contribute.
Never mind the fact the public contribution would come from existing taxes which are paying for Safeco Field, home to the Mariners, or Qwest Field, home to the Seahawks. For example, a part of the buried proposal would have cost King County residents 50 cents for every $100 the spent out at dinner. Gasp! The majority of the funds would have been raised by taxes that apply to visitors to the county.
That plan has failed. But the prospect of acquiring Durant, and showdowns with Oden a train ride away, may tilt the machine. At the very least, it bumped the open positions of coach and general manager of the Sonics into significance.
While the screaming heads berate the lottery setup, rambling about the disappointment neither franchise-changing selection will be toiling in Boston or New York, the Northwest can wipe the spittle from their mouths and rub their eyes. The lottery has made them rich.