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SIDELINES: Sonics back in Seattle? Celebration on hold for this old fan
It looks like the SuperSonics are coming back to Seattle.
It was announced Monday that there has been an agreement by a group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family, marking the return of the NBA five years after the Sonics left town for Oklahoma City.
The plan, if approved, would have the new franchise play two seasons at KeyArena beginning next NBA season while a new $490 million arena is constructed in the Sodo District.
I honestly haven’t watched an NBA game since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City five years ago. I never really saw the point. I’m a huge sports fan, but I would much, much rather watch my Gonzaga Bulldogs play a college basketball game.
The exodus of the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 left a terrible taste in my mouth. There were so many people to blame for the departure, starting with former owner Howard Schultz, new owner Clay Bennett, as well as the local and state politicians, who were unwilling to budge.
I assume I’m not the only former Sonics’ fan who is taking a wait-and-see attitude into the NBA’s future in Seattle. It would be like your girlfriend breaking up with you to date your best friend and then coming back and wanting to hop right back into your old relationship.
My childhood was filled with unforgettable memories from the Sonics. I lived and died with the teams from the 1980s and 1990s. I hit hundreds of game-winning jump shots in my driveway pretending to be Dale Ellis and even tore down my 8-foot hoop with one of Shawn Kemp’s power dunks.
Those are cherished memories that wouldn’t exist if the Sonics weren’t around when I was growing up. They are memories that my two sons, who are 10 and 11, haven’t been able to replicate while shooting baskets in our driveway. They have to pretend to be NBA players from far away, like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Guys they have no emotional connection to.
That’s why I’m taking the cautious approach to the news that the Sonics might be coming back to Seattle. Until I see them wearing green and gold, I’m not going to get my hopes up.
But the rumors are already flying around cyberspace regarding who is going to run the new Sonics franchise if they move to Seattle. I’ve seen everything from 11-time champion Phil Jackson to NBA legend Larry Bird. There has also been chatter about Mr. Sonic Nate McMillen coming back to coach.
But wouldn’t it be poetic justice if Hansen was able to poach our former team’s leadership and bring them back to Seattle? Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti and head coach Scott Brooks transformed the Thunder into one of the best teams in the NBA and did it with players that were actually drafted while the team was in Seattle.
Kevin Durant won the Rookie of the Year award for the Sonics and Westbrook was drafted by Seattle three months before Clay Bennett and Howard Schultz moved the team.
It doesn’t seem like the new Sonics have firepower even in the same stratosphere as Durant and Westbrook, meaning they will take some rebuilding to get back into the playoffs.
The current Kings are 16-26 this season, which is good for 12th in the 15-team Western Conference. Sacramento is led by the enigmatic DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 18.1 points and 10.5 rebounds.
But the Kings do have some recognizable names from the Puget Sound area in Curtis High School and University of Washington guard Isaiah Thomas and Franklin High graduate Aaron Brooks. Thomas is averaging 11.4 points and 3.0 assists.
“It’s just a little weird (but) at the same time I love Sacramento. I love everything about it. Love the fans; the organization just brought me in with open arms. That’s all I really know in this league is Sacramento,” said Thomas. “But then I am from that area back home. It’s just kind of a different situation. Whatever I say about Seattle, Sacramento fans might be mad at me, and whatever I say about Sacramento, Seattle fans might be mad at me. I just love both cities.”
I also feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place because I know exactly what the Sacramento fans are going through. I went through the same thing five years ago and even developed a small hatred toward fans in Oklahoma City, who had nothing to do with moving the Sonics.
Sacramento, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard, has vowed to not let the Kings go without a fight, which is fair.
In a statement Sunday night, Johnson said: “When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.”
There were reports Thursday that Ron Burkle, owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness, are discussing joining forces to buy the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento.
In short, Seattle and Sacramento, who both deserve to have a pro basketball team, could be headed toward a wrestling match for one NBA franchise.
But that’s just the state of professional sports these days. Whoever has the most money will win, screw the fans.