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Thursday, April 13, 2021

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After having shelled out plenty of public money in recent years for its NFL and MLB sports palaces, Seattle and Washington State seem reluctant to bend over backwards for the local NBA squad. In response, league commissioner David Stern has been pressed into making veiled threats about allowing the SuperSonics to move out of town.

Sonics owner Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks Corp., has threatened to move or sell the team if state lawmakers don’t approve a sales-tax package to pay for a new or renovated arena. But state lawmakers last month said there would be no deal this year.

“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.

Asked what that meant, Stern responded: “What I mean is they’re not interested in having the NBA there. We understand that, we understand that there are competing issues, and the mayor is free to make whatever decisions he needs to make and I support that.

“But that’s a pretty strong signal and I think that the existing ownership has said they don’t want to own a team that’s not in Seattle, so I know what they’re in the process of doing. So we’ll just see how this play ends.”

Unusually blunt language, but at root, it’s the same old song-and-dance: Make with the tax dollars, or we take our ball and go home. The team’s lease at Key Arena runs through 2010, so things won’t come to a head until then — if then.

But Stern’s further comments on a couple of other franchises gives me an idea:

Also, Stern said he would “never say never” to getting involved again in the situation in Portland. The NBA recently pulled out of the process of trying to help find one buyer for both the Trail Blazers and the Rose Garden because it was frustrated by Portland Arena Management, the lenders who now own the arena.

And he repeated that the Hornets will return to New Orleans, even if investors from Oklahoma buy a minority share of the team from George Shinn, saying that he didn’t even know how the Hornets would get out of their lease with the city.

I see some beneficial linkage here… If things are so sour for pro hoops in the Pacific Northwest, and Oklahoma City is intent on keeping a team at Ford Arena, then it would make sense to encourage either the Sonics or the Trail Blazers to head for Sooner Land. Those OKC investors can forget about the Hornets and look west, and snare a team that way. Problem solved.

And conveniently enough, that would open up a slot in Washington or Oregon for an NHL franchise (the Penguins?) to take up residence. I’d swap a roundball team for puck action any day — but that’s just me.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/13/2006 10:56:07 PM
Category: Basketball, SportsBiz | Permalink |

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