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Report: Stern’s big, final goal to get team back in Seattle

Oct 26, 2012, 7:59 AM EDT

David Stern AP

It is one of the black marks of David Stern’s approaching three decades as NBA Commissioner — not getting a new stadium built and watching a team bolting a good Seattle market for enthusiastic but smaller Oklahoma City. He and Howard Schultz (and so many more) were villains.

It’s one thing Stern would like to correct before he leaves, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports in his story about the remaining 15 months of Sterns tenure as NBA commissioner.

Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said, and has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s group to bring back the NBA there.

The problem is… what team? Stern wouldn’t rule out an expansion team when speaking after the Board of Governor’s meeting. But mostly he played dumb.

“I don’t have any current view on where such a team comes from,” Stern said. “We deal with a lot of cities. Seattle happens to be another great city…. But no, we think this it is a great development in Seattle. And we’re excited about it. But there is no current team in play and that’s going to be an issue for the owners have to consider.”

I say he was playing dumb because we all know there is one team he wants to see sold. Woj, take it away.

Ballmer’s group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle.

From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing, sources said – just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett’s deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.

The problem here is the Maloofs don’t want to sell. They might consider moving the team to Seattle if Balmer and developer Chris Hansen want to build them and arena where the Maloof family can come in and make their profits without the cash outlay. But nobody sane is going to do that. So it becomes about Stern twisting arms.

Sacramento is another good fan base, loyal people that have fought to keep their team in spite of owners trying to screw them. Moving the Kings to Seattle may fill one hole, but it creates another in Sterns legacy.

  1. chawbacon14 - Oct 26, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Wojo wrote…………. ” Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett’s deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, ”

    For once and for all, I would like to see someone explain explicitly , what this great act of deception was ?

    Because there was none.

    In the PC that announced the sale of the team from Schultz to Bennett, Bennett told them they had one year to get an arena plan in place, or he would have to look at his options.

    Bennett had a side agreement with Schultz, that he would allow Seattle one year to get an arena built and he would work to that end. And Bennett had to do that, because that is what Stern and the NBA owners told him to do. The NBA was not going to move that team from large market Seattle to OKC and lose that market, unless they had exhausted all options.

    And don’t try to stretch these emails passed around among the OKC ownership group, as proof of deception. If you put those emails in a time line, they were all written after it became apparent that the City of Seattle and the Washington state legislature were not going to fund an arena.

    It was over by March of 2007.

    As for Bennett’s efforts to build an arena there, he hired an achitectual firm, HOK out of Kansas City , they came up with an arena design very similar to The Amway Center in Orlando, almost the same price as The Amway Center, because HOK also designed The Amway Center.

    Bennett asked the State for 300 million of the 500 million price tag.

    Bennett worked with State Senator Margarita Prentice to get this plan into a legislative committee , where it died.

    Because the most powerful man in the Washington state legislature, Frank Chopp, had already stated publically, that they would fund a new arena ” over his dead body ” .

    Did Bennett really want to move the team to OKC, heck yes. Any fool could see that. But when was the last time you saw an outsider come into a community, and get a tax increase for any kind of facility, sports or whatever. It does not happen unless that community is motivated.

    Besides, the threat of Bennett moving the team, was what Schultz was betting on, he thought that would motivate Seattle to build an arena. Seattle knew Schultz , a hometown guy, would not move the team. For that threat to be effective, then there had to be some doubt as to Bennett’s long term intentions .

    If Seattle claims deception, then they must just be a bunch of rubes who just fell off the turnip truck, because anybody with half a brain , saw all the cards on the table and knew exactly what the stakes were.

  2. doclolly - Oct 26, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    ” Stern wouldn’t rule out an expansion team ”

    are YOU KIDDING ME? Not too long ago the NBA was talking about contracting teams and now Stern wants to add another expansion team? The last thing that the NBA needs is another irrevelant franchise….

    • stoudemelo - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      The NBA never considered this, it was something said by fans and media when the league was lopsided and couldn’t come to a CBA.

      • mogogo1 - Oct 26, 2012 at 1:42 PM

        If they in fact never considered it (and I think you’re probably right in that they never were going to really go that route), they’re even worse at business than they already claim to be. They’ve consistently cried about how the majority of teams can’t make money. If contraction isn’t going to be even considered in times like that, it’s business ineptitude on a scary scale.

        The problem we’re seeing is that the NBA is doing a lousy job controlling moves and assuring stable markets have teams. The Bobcats were brought into being for no other reason than Charlotte logically should have a team but the league couldn’t keep a crappy owner from moving the Hornets. That left the league with an extra team and a continuing problem in that the Hornets are eventually going to dump NO and end up still someplace else. Same issue with Seattle. They can support a team and the Kings are dead in Sacramento because of their crappy owners. But since they’re not going to have the ability to control the lousy owners, Seattle will probably get an expansion club while the Kings wind up who knows where…probably someplace that won’t be able to sustain them given how clueless the Maloof brothers are.

  3. smcgaels1997 - Oct 26, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    So expand..who cares if there’s another NBA team, as long as a city can support it then expand and leave Sacramento be

  4. cbt22 - Oct 26, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Or he could have just not let the Sonics leave in the first place. But that would have meant Stern would have had to stand up for the fans. But we all know allowing a team to leave its beloved city then allowing that city a new team later down the road is much easier.

    • chawbacon14 - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      Not that simple.

      Sonics were headed to bankruptcy due to a terrible lease and an inadequate arena.

      Total team revenue for the Sonics was near the bottom of the NBA under Schultz ownership. They had a terrible lease, where a portion of tickets, concession, and parking went to the City to pay for a bond issue that financed the 1995 KeyArena rennovation.

      That worked well for the period 1995 to around 1998, when the Sonics were good and attendance was high. But when bad times on the court came along, the team was losing money and the City was not getting enough revenue to meet the payments on the bonds.

      The 1999 player friendly CBA had increased player salaries, making it even harder for the Sonics to be competitive.

      Other cities were building new arenas, that had profit making amenities , that were impossible to build within KeyArena.

      In season 2005/06 ………… the Sonics revenue was lower than the Hornets, who played that year in OKC due to hurricane Katrina, this according to Forbes. Its on the net.

      The answer, was for the City to redo the lease. But the City would have to find another revenue source to meet their bond payments. That meant a tax increase. And at the time, there was a political movement within Seattle called ” People For More Important Things ” and they were very strong. Seattle was fed up with building new sports venues on the City dime.

      So the City could not redo the lease to help the Sonics.

      And the political mood in Seattle prevented a new arena from being built.

      Stern spent a lot of time in Seattle in the spring of 2006. He made several trips. He talked to the City and the State, and by all objective accounts, he was treated badly. After his final trip, he returned to NYC , and held a PC which was reported on here

      http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2407965

      Stern said … “I would say that the city is making it pretty clear of what they want us to do, and we’ll accommodate them,” Stern said.

      And he did just what he told them he would do.

      Same thing Clay Bennett did, he did exactly what he told them he would do.

      Seattle got motivated to build their football and baseball stadiums only at the very last minute, just as the teams were getting ready to load up the trucks and leave.

      But this time, Seattle did not care enough for the NBA , to build a suitable arena.

      There was no deception. Everyone who counted, knew what was at stake.

    • chawbacon14 - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      Forbes NBA team valuations, sorted by team revenue , for season 2005/06

      http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/32/biz_06nba_NBA-Team-Valuations_Revenue.html

      For 2004/05

      http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/32/Revenues_1.html

      It was ridiculous, for a top 10 media market like Seattle, for the Sonics to have revenues this low. They were mixed in with the worst small markets.

      They could not survive in Seattle without a new venue and a new lease.

      The NBA had a problem franchise, and Stern did what had to be done to solve the problem.

  5. thetooloftools - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I think the NBA needs to stop teams from letting players build super teams. How can the Lakers not be allowed to get Chris Paul, but end up with D. Howard?

    • sellahh - Oct 26, 2012 at 3:34 PM

      You, sir, are dumb.
      CP3 trade got vetoed because Stern acted as a franchise owner. You recall Dan Gilbert? Or J. Buss? Or Marc Cuban? That’s what Stern was when vetoing that trade.

  6. michaeljordanseviltwin - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Goodbye, Charlotte Bobcats. Watching you over the past 8 seasons has been like spending time with that family member fighting cancer. It was mostly bad and when it all inevitably comes to an end all us Charlotteans will be more relived than sad.

    • cltbsktball - Oct 26, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      wrong answer. the city of charlotte wrote into the new arena deal in 2005 a poison pill, so if they even wanted to leave the franchise owner would have to pay a $350 million dollar exit fee. so it aint happening, sit back shut up and enjoy more charlotte basketball asshat

  7. 1972wasalongtimeago - Oct 26, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Seattle’s starting 5

    Ed, Jeff, Mike, Stone, & Matt.
    With Boom coming off bench

  8. dhagentj - Oct 26, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Anything less than expansion, and Stern can suck it. That is the ONLY proper fix for the disaster he has created. Expand to Seattle and Vancouver and turn those black marks into blemishes.

    • chawbacon14 - Oct 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Yeah, lets just ignore the facts, and call it a ” disaster ” , typical emotion driven opinion from an emotional fan.

      Stern and the NBA owners, solved a problem they had in Seattle.

      The ” disaster ” is all on Seattle, don’t try to blame anyone but the real culprit.

      • Kurt Helin - Oct 26, 2012 at 11:23 PM

        The “real culprit” is up for debate. Howard Schultz deserves blame for his ownership and selling to Bennett, who intended to move the team. The politicians in Seattle deserve blame. But I do not blame the fans in Seattle the same way I do not in Sacramento — I think if you vote to use tax $$ to build a stadium for billionaires to take your money you are the fool.

      • chawbacon14 - Oct 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM

        Well then Kurt, call me a fool. Because a competitive world we live in. If where every you live, does not want to compete for a team, then don’t cry when the team leaves. Go ahead, don’t vote for a stadium in your city, cause there’s plenty of other cities who want your team and who will provide a venue.

        I can’t understand sports fans, who do not want to have to compete ????

        And the Sonics fans in Seattle , are a minority. The general population in Seattle were the ones who said no more money for professional sports, when they voted by 75% margin in favor of proposition I-91.

        No one blames the fans in Seattle, its their neighbors who are not fans who said they no longer wanted an NBA team.

        And btw, they have now agreed to spend $200 million of taxpayer money on an arena, if they’d done that six years ago, the Sonics never leave.

        And you also cannot expect an owner like Schultz, to keep pouring his money down a dark hole.

        The question that the media needs to ask, when you’re not blathering some silly emotion for the Sonics fans, is when Schultz put the team up for sale in spring of 2006, why did no local wealth step up to buy the team ?

        I can tell you why, it was because of the lease and the venue they were playing in. No ” fool ” was gonna buy a business that would insure that he lost millions of dollars every year. The team only had value to someone wanting to move the team.

        And if Bennett did not buy it, there was a group from San Jose who were ready. In fact, that group was willing to pay more, per Schultz, but they would not agree to the one year stipulation.

        This whole idea of a ” black mark ” on Stern’s legacy for moving the Sonics, is nothing but a media created storyline .

        Stern is conducting the NBA’s business in a very pragmatic manner. Seattle needed a new lease and venue to keep the team, they said no , Stern moved the team. There’s now a new venue with a new lease, Stern says the NBA would like to be in that market.

        In fact, the NBA never wanted to leave that market for small market OKC. But Seattle forced their hand.

      • chawbacon14 - Oct 27, 2012 at 8:10 AM

        Hey Kurt, lets say there’s a major corporation , who is looking at your City to locate their home office. It means thousands of good paying jobs for your City.

        But they want incentives to move there, they want property taxes waived, they want infrastructure built by the taxpayers, they may even want help in constructing a building.

        So you vote no ???

        Even if it means your City gets all that money back and more by the creation of all these jobs ?

        Who is the fool Kurt ?

        There’s only a couple of Cities , that professional sports needs the City , more than the City needs the team. NYC is one of them, LA might be another, but I’m not sure, because they can’t seem to solve their NFL problem.

        But the rest of the towns, need the teams more than the teams need them. And those towns will have to compete with each other for those teams.

  9. halfbaht - Oct 26, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    Would love to see the sonics return, but not at a cost of a current team, except maybe the bobcats, but I that’s a straight up death sentence, plus I can’t see Jordan letting it happen. Expand to Seattle, let New Orleans rename their team like they want too and give Charlotte back the Hornets name. Happy days

  10. tcclark - Oct 26, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    The Bobcats are the only option. You can’t expand. There’re too many teams in the league as it is. Charlotte has no history, no banners, and living in NC I can tell you that few people would care. I know people that still think the Hornets play in Charlotte. North Carolina loves college basketball, not the NBA. They could move the Bobcats to Seattle, then move the new sonics back to the Northwest division, move OKC to the Southwest and move the Hornets back to the Eastern Conference. Then the Sonics could buy their banners and history back from OKC and it’ll be like they never left.

    You can’t make the Kings the Sonics. The Kings have their own history. You can’t have Oscar Robertson’s number hanging in the rafters of the Seattle Sonics. That’s just ridiculous.

  11. pastortodd78 - Oct 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    OKC does not own the banners or history from the Sonics. Those stayed in Seattle as per an agreement in the move.

  12. dans761 - Oct 27, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    NBA asked Seattle to remodel Key Arena, so they did in 1995-96. Less then 5 years later the NBA asked Seattle to build a new arena after spending over 100 million dollars. 5 years later its not good enough? That’s unfair. The NBA designed Key arena, it was their mistake and Sonics fans paid for the NBA’s mistake. Why do you think the politicians didnt wanna spend a billion dollars on a new palace when they did their part? It’s not the Seattles politicians of fans fault the Sonics were bullied away from seattle, it’s the NBA’s broken business model led by David Stern that created this. Shame on you David Stern! Shame on you Howard Schultz and shame on you Clay Bennett for lying your way to moving the Sonics to Oklahoma!

  13. 20dollardinners - Oct 28, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    I live in Seattle.

    The key arena was and is terrible. Our largest university, UW, has a better stadium. Seriously. There are probably public school districts with better venues.

    We sell out every NFL and MLS game. We have good MLB attendance considering the Mariners are terrible. We have a good fan base.

    We will get a NBA and NHL team. The numbers make too much sense for this not to happen. I can’t wait.

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