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.