SEATTLE (AP) -The Seattle SuperSonics may not try to escape their lease at KeyArena through arbitration, a federal judge said Monday. Judge Ricardo S. Martinez called the team's interpretation of the contract ``as errant as a typical Shaquille O'Neal free throw.''
The decision was a victory for the city and means officials may continue to seek a court order forcing the Sonics to play the next three seasons at the NBA's smallest venue.
``The Sonics have made clear they're attempting to leave after this coming season,'' Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr said. ``The city wants an order from the judge saying they cannot escape the terms of their lease.''
New Sonics chairman Clay Bennett failed to win public funding this year to build a new arena. Last month, he issued a demand for arbitration, hoping to buy out the remainder of the lease unless a deal on a new facility could be reached by month's end.
In response, the city sued, trying to force the Sonics to honor the terms of a deal reached in the mid-1990s: In exchange for $74 million in renovations to the old Seattle Coliseum, the team agreed to play all of its home games there through Sept. 30, 2010.
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