A wave of the pom-poms to Seattle Post-Intelligencer for its consistently incisive reporting on the Sonics' story, with today's analysis by Greg Johns another fine example. He notes that the votes were just not there in the Legislature (haven't been for four sessions), and that the bid by the Huskies for stadium money complicated the situation, since legislators (including Speaker Frank Chopp) would not have wanted to snub the UW while rewarding the BasketBallmers. So it's on to Plan B. One key will be whether the Steve Ballmer group will remain interested, since clearly the NBA would love to have an owner of Ballmer's stature, interest in the sport, and wealth. Another key is Matt Griffin, the developer and spokesman for the new group. Griffin provides what has been missing: a reliable, flexible, trusted dealmaker. That person has not been on the scene, and Mayor Greg Nickels' belated emergence in that role is problematic, given his abrasive relations with the governor, the speaker, and King County Executive Ron Sims. Reporter Johns suggests that NBA Commissioner Dave Stern doesn't have a problem with Seattle; he has a problem with Seattle's politicians. The next big test for Nickels will be to see if he can prevent the City Council from expressing interest in taking settlement money from the Oklahoma City group, which has offered $26 million to get out of the lease. With the Legislature's failure to come up with the missing $75 million for the KeyArena solution, the Council will now be tempted to take that money (probably sweetened a bit), rather than suing the team to stay for two more years and then leave, sticking the City with a tab of around $25 million to complete payments on the 1995 renovations of the Key. Another reason the Council might feel like letting the team get away: There's now a clear villain to pin the tag of losing the team on — Speaker Frank Chopp. The Mayor and the Council are guilt-free at last!