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Ball Don't Lie

Seattle’s Key Arena, much less potential ownership, has a lot of work to do before it can field an NBA team

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Key Arena, in 2008 (Getty Images)

This is not a Ball Don’t Lie endorsement of the Sacramento Kings’ move to Seattle, an idea that we’re all sick of even though it’s clear a properly run NBA team should be thriving in Seattle. The Maloof brothers deserve severe condemnation for their work in working against the NBA and especially the city of Sacramento to refuse any attempts at deals to create a workable new arena for the team, or finding local buyers.

What is likely, though, is a move to Seattle for the Kings in time for the 2013-14 season. There are still many things to overcome — including a Sacramento-led drive to find local ownership that could very well be in place by the NBA-enforced March 1 deadline to file for relocation — but currently all significant signs are pointing toward a completed sale, a filing before the beginning of March, and the NBA approving a move at its Board of Governors meeting on April 18.

A move that would see the Kings become the Seattle SuperSonics (please don’t become just the “Sonics”) and play for two seasons at Key Arena while the city and all manner of public funding puts together a massive new stadium in time for the 2015-16 season. A new stadium with updates on Key Arena’s quaint and outmoded notions of “deafening home-crowd cheering” and “intimacy” and “lack of luxury boxes.”

With less than seven months to go before the 2013-14 offseason, as sad as this all must be for Kings fans, Seattle officials are making their move to make Key Arena — once loudly derided by two different sets of backstabbing Seattle SuperSonics owners as outdated — ready for modern basketball. At least for two seasons. From Q13 Fox:

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell spoke about the improvements Monday. He said a lot of work needed to be done to the old arena, including accessibility improvements, High-Definition upgrades and other capital improvements.

“A lot of technology improvements,” Harrell said. “We want to make sure it’s broadcast in HD and the way we want to see it. You’ll see some accessibility issues in the terms of disability. So, we’ll do a lot of capital improvements and make sure it’s still a good facility on a temporary basis.”

Other possible additions include a new scoreboard, renovating lower bowl seats along with new premium courtside seats and suite improvements. The price tag could be between $12-15 million.

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Lots of hoops still to jump through in Seattle (Getty Images)

Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Doust can’t officially commit to initiating restructuring plans for the arena because the NBA approval of the move has yet to go through, but she did offer this bit of wisdom to anyone wondering how the arena — which hasn’t hosted an NBA game since the Sonics left in 2008 — is holding up. From the Puget Sound Business Journal:

Daoust said the Key is “a fully functional arena” with the infrastructure and full-time staff in place. It already hosts professional women’s and collegiate basketball games, and can accommodate the NBA.

“We’re ready,” she said.

Save for one relatively important thing. The arena needs an NBA court. That whole thing that you run up and down and play on. Yeah, they’re going to need to put in an order of one of those, along with those high-definition camera capabilities, because KOMO is reporting that the “old Sonics hardwood is now in Oklahoma,” which doesn’t even make sense considering the New Orleans Hornets played a good chunk of their games in Oklahoma City’s energy company-named arena from 2005 to 2007 — wasn't there a court already in place?

Then again, try to figure out a way that any of this makes sense.

The Hornets are only in New Orleans because former owner George Shinn lied and poisoned the water amongst rabid fans in North Carolina, before moving to NOLA and selling the team. Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, his Hornets played to massive sellout crowds in Oklahoma City, where an ownership group there noticed a moneymaking opportunity, and took advantage of a dispirited, cheap and out-of-his-league Starbucks owner in Howard Schultz who had grown wary of his time spent running the Seattle Sonics.

Schultz completely sold out the city that had made him billions in selling its hometown basketball team to a group of Oklahoma City-area moguls with an NBA-ready arena in their back pocket at home. Those moguls then lied to David Stern, who probably didn't mind knowing he had incompetent boobs in New Orleans and Sacramento to rely on to fill Seattle's void eventually.

All while the Maloof brothers were preparing their massive downfall from league-adored owners into misleading, tactless public enemies — a move that took less than a decade to formulate.

(Also, for a spell there, the NBA owned the Hornets. Don't forget about that.)

The upshot is the upgrade in ownership. Michael Jordan had a terrible start in Charlotte, and his team still stinks, but he's finally going about rebuilding and money-minding the right way. The Bensons took over in New Orleans, and they appear to have the long view (instead of the quick fix) in mind. Any group that takes over the Kings is an improvement over the Maloofs; and though every sideline shot of the two Oklahoma City Thunder owners dispirits us, our mood is significantly brightened seconds later when we get to see their team play basketball.

Back to Seattle. As the NBA might be.

As Deborah Doust pointed out above, a potential move to the city may not become NBA-legal until April 18, and though the momentum is definitely on Seattle's side, it's a hard sell to contractors, city officials, and investors until the paperwork is completed. From there, Key Arena officials would then have around five months to make their building NBA ready before inspections set in, and five months is not a lot of time to complete a "$12-15 million" project. Most NBA general managers would agree.

Even three weeks' worth of wink-wink maneuvers and preemptive bidding and consultation will still make this quite the venture. This isn't to say Key Arena isn't ready for the big stage — it is, as anyone who watches a Seattle Storm game on TV can tell you — but to hear several outlets tell it, the arena isn't up to ideal specifications.

And if a move to Seattle really is assured, on April 18, then the particulars behind this overhaul will truly have their work cut out for them.

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