<
>

Storm focusing on games, not Seattle arena situation

SEATTLE -- Anne Donovan, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson all
claim it's not a distraction.

Yet Friday night could be the last regular season game in
Seattle for the Storm, as the future of the WNBA franchise and
their NBA brethren SuperSonics continues to be a lingering
question.

Seattle is already assured of at least one home playoff game
next week -- most likely against Phoenix -- but Friday's fan
appreciation night could have a little more meaning for a city
that's already lost one women's professional basketball team when
the ABL folded in late 1998, taking away the Seattle Reign.

"Things like this in my opinion are so out of my hands, so out
of Anne's hands, so out of Lauren's, you go down the list. Whether
or not I lose sleep over it is not going to have an effect on what
happens," Bird said Thursday. "So it's really not something I
even think about. It's one of those things that come October I'll
have more to talk about."

The Oklahoma City-based ownership group that owns the Sonics and
Storm, headed by Clay Bennett, wants to have an agreement by Oct.
31 to build a new arena in the Seattle area to replace KeyArena. If
such a deal is not in place by then, Bennett has said he plans to
file relocation papers with the NBA to move the Sonics to Oklahoma
City.

There's been no definitive statement made about the Storm's
future, but Bennett has indicated he has no intention of splitting
the franchises.

"Once in a while it gets brought up and we talk about it, but
it's going to take care of itself," Bird said. "It doesn't really
affect us on a day-to-day basis."

After the Washington Legislature adjourned in April without
taking action on a measure to help pay for a new $500 million arena
that Bennett wants, the owner said, "Clearly at this time the
Sonics and [WNBA] Storm have little hope of remaining in the Puget
Sound region."

There's been little change in the tenor of comments from the
ownership group since. Earlier this week, minority owner Aubrey
McClendon told the Journal Record in Oklahoma City that the
Professional Basketball Club LLC bought the franchises with the
hope of moving the teams to Oklahoma City, while acknowledging they
could make more money in Seattle.

The Storm are taking deposits on 2008 season tickets -- although
the deposit includes a refund guarantee -- but attendance is down
from the past two seasons.

Bird and Jackson can both become unrestricted free agents after
the season. Bird would like to remain in Seattle, but says she's up
for playing wherever. Jackson has been more adamant about her
desire to continue playing here, saying before the season it's her
hope to end her career playing in Seattle.

Unless an arena deal is struck, or Bennett changes his plans and
considers selling the Storm to a local buyer, Jackson may have to
change her plan.

"I've said what I want to do publicly," Jackson said. "I
can't focus on it right now."