NBA / Jul 17, 2009 / 11:00 am

Stern: “I hope someday … that we again have a team in Seattle.”

The Glove & The Reign Man

The Glove & The Reign Man

Not sure how much I should read into this, but it doesn’t sound like bad news.

Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley got (literally) a couple of minutes with David Stern at the Vegas summer league, and attempted to grill the commissioner about when (or if) Seattle will ever get another NBA franchise. Here’s an excerpt from the column that ran Thursday:

The level of disrespect [Stern] showed the city during the push and pull over the KeyArena lease agreement was insulting.

During that fight, he never acknowledged all of the good Seattle did for the league. Even as Seattle felt the heartbreak of losing its team, Stern never said he was sorry. Never thanked it for its 41 years of loyal support. Stern and (Clay) Bennett became the nattering nabobs of NBA negativism.

This week, as I came here to watch the league’s future play in the NBA Summer League, I saw the man who presided over the fall of the Sonics.

At courtside of the Thomas & Mack Center, before (Blake) Griffin‘s debut with the Los Angeles Clippers, I asked Stern if I could talk with him for a couple of minutes. Just two minutes for 41 years. Two minutes to talk to Seattle basketball fans. A little respect after showing the ultimate disrespect.

He paused, looked at a member of his public-relations staff and said, “OK, two minutes.”

He gave me a minute and 43 seconds.

I asked him if he would offer some thanks to Seattle for all it did for the league.

“It was a great city for the NBA,” Stern said, dropping the stridency of last summer. “It supported us very well, and we had great teams and great memories. I don’t consider it a success that we left Seattle, but a failure of types. And I hope someday, whether on my watch or a successor’s watch, that we again have a team in Seattle.”

With a public-relations staff member tape-recording our brief interview, Stern was asked what he thought Seattle should do next.

“The next step is really the right putative owner, who really wants to have a team and is prepared to do what it takes, working together with the city, the state to get an arena and get the job done,” he said. “I think ultimately there will be [another team in Seattle]. I really do.”

When he was asked if Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, an NBA maven who is part of a group that has offered to make a sizable financial commitment to bring the league back to the city, could be the kind of owner Stern would like to see in Seattle, the commissioner gave maybe his most encouraging answer for Seattle since Howard Schultz sold the Sonics to Bennett.

“I don’t want to put the whammy on him,” Stern said, “but he’d be a hell of an owner.”

So we know Stern isn’t morally opposed to bringing a team to Seattle. We know there’s a potential owner Stern would like to see in place. And we know the fans will come and support any group of players that suits up with “Sonics” across their chest.

Like vultures looking for the big prize, we can identify the staggering NBA franchises in financial trouble that could possibly become our new Sonics. The Bobcats, Grizzlies, Kings, Bucks and Pacers have been mentioned consistently. If the Nets don’t get their arena plans in Brooklyn off the ground, they could be up for discussion. And there’s always the Clippers. (Almost everything about moving the Clips to Seattle makes sense, but even though owner Donald Sterling doesn’t seem to give a crap about his team, he did grow up in L.A., so I don’t see the franchise relocating under his watch.)

But none of those scenarios will happen unless KeyArena is renovated, or an entirely new arena is built. Whether it’s the city legislature, the voters, or whoever, that’s the only way to go about it.

Not having an NBA team in my city hasn’t crushed my world or anything, and I’ve had fun throwing my fandom behind the Pacers since the Oklahoma City hi-jacking.

But, damn … let’s just make this happen while we still can, people.

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  • Jay Jay

    Hey Austin, just wondering how do you pick a new team to support if your current one doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve never really thought how hard it would be. I mean i’ve always been a knicks fan and i haven’t really thought about supporting another team before.


    Sorry Austin but no team for you. Dont believe the hype.
    This Just In: Antoine Walker ARRESTED!!!

  • jzsmoove

    Seattle has to have an NBA team, it has earned it. I just couldnt believe that for stupid stupid reasons it has to relocate somewhere else. The Sonics didnt fold because of lack of support or fandom and that makes it more appaling. I feel for you on this AB.

  • jzsmoove

    For what its worth, if I had the dough I would put Seattle back on the NBA map. Big IF…

  • dk

    I think the Seatle Sonics left because AB is black.

  • http://www.realgm.com Rare Air

    Eff off Stern – You’ve done a great number of things for the league but this was a black eye. He’s a huge reason the team left in the first place, Milwaukee Bucks are next.

  • Sweet English

    When Antoine has got an arrest warrant out for a massive casino bill, what is the last place on earth you would step foot? Not exactly gonna look good when your trying to testify in court

    PO: ‘Antoine Walker, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be taken in evidence….’


  • hahns

    is negativism a word?

  • Gerard

    To me it doesn’t make sense to add another team to the league. 30 is already stretching things out too thin; there are certain teams that will never make it beyond fringe-playoff-level-team-status at best. Worse, some players are forced to squander a majority of their careers in those deadbeat locations because of the draft system. For a team to come to Seattle, relocation makes much more sense to me. Sell say the Grizzlies (who have attendance problems and an owner who doesn’t seem to want to actively pursue winning) and move them to Seattle, and hope that the town appreciates have another team.

  • Momma Nay

    Our city needs a team!

  • seattlebob

    is it just me, or does kemp look exactly like morris chestnut as Ricky from boyz n the hood?

  • LB

    AB, I, and many other Angelenos will gladly donate the Clippers to Seattle. It’s not like Chicago, where the Southsiders root for the Sox and others root for the Cubs, or like New York, where there are an equal number of passionate fans for the Mets and the Yankees. Most people in LA just dont care about the Clippers, especially when the Lakers are rolling.

  • Sacto_J

    Gerard, I agree. As the Grizzlies were originally a northwest team to begin with, I’d much rather see them move than my “lottery day finest” Sacramento Kings. Still, being on the brink here in Sacto, I can understand what it would be like to lose something you appreciate that gives you a greater sense of connection with, and pride for the place you call home. And having similar issues with Arena deals and politics makes it even easier to understand the challenges you face trying to move forward. I can only hope the people of Northern California understand what a benefit having professional sports in town is for not only the economy, but for building a sense of camaraderie and togetherness within the community. It was an interesting time in Sacto 8 yrs. ago, and it hasn’t been the same since, but I still couldn’t imagine my Kings not being in town anymore, and hope that at the least, we can look to Seattle as a lesson in how to keep a team…Good luck Sonics fans….

  • Coop

    I miss the 90s

  • NC

    What about Vancouver … the NBA sure gave up on that city in a heartbeat.

  • HBooyah

    The NBA gave up on Vancouver and on Seattle in exactly the same way: new owner makes promises not to move cities. New owner does zero things to make team better. Fans continue supporting team despite crappy record. New owner cites irreconcilable differences in “direction” between the city and “business” and moves the team to his home town. There needs to be protection in somewhere to prevent this from happening. Now anybody in Western Canada has the choice of Portland (6 hours from Vancouver) or Toronto (across the entire country) to cheer for if they want to be “local”. Never mind the poor Seattle locals who dutifully went and watched their team suck it up year after year and still cheered for them.

  • http://myspace.com/ferrel_gangsta ferrel

    The only way i would accept an nba team in seatle if is the thunder get back to seatle, and again give the team name sonics, but no keep the players,then start another team in oklahoma city with the same name and with same players.

  • jay

    well lets see..i am a business guy..put me in charge.if i were da commish for day…first order of biz would be to get a team bk to seattle…no offense to peeps in memphis but that team is in the red..due to the economy no way that team ever gets in the black..period. sorry boys and girls..facts are facts! move memphis to seattle and they become the new sonics like the cleveland browns after the original jettisoned to baltimore! clipps go back to san diego or move them permanently to the pond..no reason to have a team payin rent to the lakers at staples. it would be like the mets playing at yankee stadium. sure it is nice and saves coin but lets be real…if you are a clips fan dont you want your own home?? i wud!! be like the nets playing home games at the garden..sure it is an upgrade from the swamp but what kinda home court is it…nome!!! exactly!

  • http://nbainstl.blogspot.com Strength

    I really feel sorry for Seattle fans — St. Louis knows what its like to lose an NBA franchise. We lost the Hawks to Atlanta in ’67.

    I’m not a fan of moving teams that have won championships. Atlanta does a miserable job of supporting the Hawks. I’d love to have them back in St. Louis.

    And as a Laker fan (hardcore) I REALLLY miss playing the Sonics. At least you guys still get to keep your history and records and names.

    I’m pretty sure Seattle will get another team, probably before St. Louis and we’ve gone 42 years w/o NBA basketball.