When the Sacramento Kings reached an agreement to stay in town last spring, it was a moment of celebration for the city and fans. For Seattle, however, it was something entirely different. Faced with their best chance of grabbing a team since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008, the city's basketball fans instead had to settle for nothing but the hope that they could find another way to grab a team soon after. After months of tangible progress and near-certainty, Seattle was left to assess the situation and follow new leads.
Nearly a year later, it doesn't appear as if any relocation or expansion deal is on the horizon. Nonetheless, Chris Hansen, the lead investor and public face of the effort to turn the Kings into the Sonics, says that Seattleites should be patient. From an interview with Percy Allen for The Seattle Times:
(Are you by nature a patient person?) “Very patient.”
(So then what’s your message to Sonics fans who may not be as patient as you are?) “Does anybody really think that Seattle is not going to have a NBA team at some point in the future? I think everybody can get really impatient when things don’t happen on their own agenda whether it’s something like this or accumulating wealth at a certain point in our life or accomplishing some professional goal of yours. It’s real easy to get impatient and ahead of yourself. It’s inevitable Seattle will have a basketball team. It’s just a question of when. Our job is to get the arena through the EIS process and done and evaluate opportunities as they come up. The next time an opportunity comes our way, we’re going to be in a lot better position. We’re not going to have to prove to the NBA that we’re likely to get an arena built. We’ll have a fully-baked, signed off on deal. There’s not a lot of other cities in this country that can say that. You may not talk about some of the difficulties that we’ve gone though in the last year, but the entire nation got to see how passionate Seattle sports fans are. The best marketing for the case of the NBA in Seattle, I had nothing to do with. And they come out for the NFL and soccer too. The entire world has had a chance to see what a great city this is and how much things have changed since the last time the Sonics were here. How vibrant our city is and how much it’s grown. I don’t want to talk badly about other cities, but I don’t think there’s anyone that is even close to what we have to offer. [...]
(Any feedback from the new NBA commissioner?) “We obviously got to know (Adam Silver) in the process. He’s a great guy. I think he’s going to be a great leader for the NBA. I think he has a lot on his plate right now. He said it in the press the top priority for him is the NBA’s new television contract and getting that sorted out. I think that’s at the top of every owner’s mind. I think there’s a few franchises that they would like to get on the right track. A lot of that should happen from revenue sharing in the new collective bargain and the new TV deal will help raise all of those. Those are probably his two most important things. Hopefully after those things are involved there will be an opportunity for us to squeeze our foot in the door and we’re going to make the case. But you never know. For instance with Sacramento it just happened. Opportunities can just present themselves. I don’t want to talk specifically, but I’m pretty sure if another opportunities presents itself we’ll try to get engaged and the NBA would likely want us engaged in that process.”
(It doesn’t sound as if expansion is likely.) “I’m not saying that. I wouldn’t say that at all. I wouldn’t say expansion isn’t the way to go. I would think that post the NBA getting its television contract figured out, my personal point of view is that they may be more open to talking about expansion at that point. But I don’t think even the commissioner speaks on behalf of all of the owners. This is a collective decision that needs to be made on what’s best for all of them. I think they’ll be a lot more open to it once the majority of their teams that may be struggling from a financial viability standpoint have turned the corner, they have new TV deal in place and they keep seeing how persistent and passionate our fans our. I think they’ll be a lot more open to it.”
Hansen is taking a realistic point of view here. Looming TV negotiations have put several sales on hold, and it would be silly of Hansen and Seattle to force their hand when there's not really a franchise to be bought. It's telling that this interview begins with talk of Hansen bringing an NHL team to Seattle, because that could theoretically happen soon.
I doubt that dormant Sonics fans want to hear that their dreams of getting a team are far off, but there is a silver lining in Hansen's comments. While he reiterated his commitment to bringing a team back to Seattle in the immediate aftermath of the Kings deal, Hansen's mind could have changed over the last 11 months. Now, there's proof that the failure of his first attempt won't dissuade him from making the same kind of effort in the future. Seattle and the NBA both know that they have a long-term partner.
The gains haven't yet been tangible, but that sort of theoretical stability is valuable. If Hansen sticks around, his promise of bringing Seattle an NBA team will probably be met in due time.
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