City of Seattle

Community Shootaround: Bring Back The SuperSonics?

Jack Sikma dedicated part of his Hall of Fame induction speech Friday night to campaigning for a return of the SuperSonics. Sikma was one of Seattle’s most recognizable players and part of its only NBA championship team in 1979. His number 43 is among seven that have been retired by the franchise.

“To all the diehard Sonic fans who proudly sport the green and gold … there’s a hole in Seattle that needs to be filled,” Sikma said in comments relayed by Anthony Olivieri of ESPN The Magazine“Speaking for all Sonics fans, it’s our great hope that the NBA will soon find a pathway to bring a franchise back to Seattle. It’s time.”

The Sonics were a beloved part of the Pacific Northwest from their creation in 1967 until Clay Bennett moved them to Oklahoma City in 2008. Although it has since been broken, the team set a league attendance record by averaging 21,725 fans per night during the 1979/80 season.

Hope for a return was reignited by a new $900MM facility that will serve as home to Seattle’s expansion NHL team, which begins play in 2021. The building sits on the site of the former KeyArena, and fans in the area hope it will eventually house the Sonics as well.

Although Seattle has been rumored to be atop the NBA’s expansion list ever since the original team left, there’s no indication that the league plans to add teams any time soon. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly thrown cold water on the idea.

“There’s no doubt there are a number of cities in the United States that could host NBA basketball, but we analogize it to selling equity,” he said in July. “I think we would want to make sure at the time we expanded we felt it would help grow the entire league and not just support the NBA in that particular city.”

What do you think? Does it make sense for the NBA to add another team or two right now? Or is it smarter to wait, regardless of the emotional attachment that many have to the Sonics?

Head to our comment section below to share your feedback.

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Wright, West, Warriors

Steve Ballmer’s actions over the past year should end any speculation that he has a long-term strategy to move the Clippers to Seattle, writes Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times. Ballmer has strong ties to the Pacific Northwest, where he made his fortune as CEO of Microsoft. He tried to buy the SuperSonics in 2008 and had a deal in place to move the Kings to Seattle in 2013 before it fell through.

However, Ballmer recognizes that the Clippers would drop in value if they were moved from the nation’s second-largest media market and has been taking steps to ensure their long-term future in Los Angeles. The team formally announced plans Thursday for a new 18,500-seat arena in Inglewood that will be built without public money. Ballmer also approved two bold moves this summer to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, making the Clippers legitimate contenders for the NBA title.

“We’re not moving the team to Seattle,” Ballmer declared recently. “We’re building a new billion-dollar-plus home in Inglewood.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers made an addition to their coaching staff this week by hiring Todd Wright, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Wright served as head of strength and conditioning as well as an assistant coach for the Sixers for the past four seasons.
  • The Lakers will part with director of player personnel Ryan West, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link). The son of NBA legend Jerry West had been with the team since he was hired as a scout in 2009 and is given credit for identifying D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson in their respective drafts. West’s departure was a mutual decision that was reached in the past few days, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. His contract had expired and he and the organization agreed that he had “reached a ceiling” in his current role.
  • Salary cap expert David Kelly, who serves as general counsel for the Warriors, shares his perspective on an eventful offseason with Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Klay Thompson had assured Golden State officials that he was staying, which eliminated one worry when they got official notice that Kevin Durant was leaving for the Nets. The focus immediately shifted to Russell, whom the team had targeted as a potential option several months before. Kelly had to work through a complex series of maneuvers before a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn could be legally completed.

LeBron, Wade Interested In Eventually Owning NBA Teams

Michael Jordan is the only former NBA great who currently serves as the majority owner of one of the league’s 30 teams. However, LeBron James – who is often mentioned alongside Jordan in discussions on the league’s all-time best players – would like to join the former Bulls great in the ownership ranks someday. And, as Joe Vardon explains in an interesting piece for The Athletic, James is uniquely positioned to actually make it happen.

According to Vardon, if James were to retire today and an NBA franchise went up for sale tomorrow, the four-time MVP would be in position to place a bid, given his net worth, his connections, and the cache he has built up around the league.

“Ain’t no maybe about it, I’m going to do that s–t,” James told Vardon, referring to eventually owning an NBA franchise.

As Vardon outlines, James doesn’t have “Steve Ballmer money” and couldn’t just write a check to purchase an NBA franchise outright, but a majority owner is only required to purchase 15% of a team’s shares. While LeBron’s estimated net worth is $450MM, per Forbes, that estimate likely undershoots the actual figure, according to Vardon, who notes that James has made a number of private investments and maneuvers in recent years that would push the number higher.

With the right group of investors and partners, James would easily be able to put together a group capable of making a strong bid for any franchise that goes up for sale, as LeBron’s business associate Paul Wachter tells Vardon.

“I would say it would take about five calls to find partners if LeBron wanted to pull together an ownership group,” Wachter said. “If LeBron sat down with his team to discuss it, it would take maybe two or three calls apiece. I could tell you people I’d call to be involved now, but of course LeBron has his own ideas and Maverick [Carter] has his ideas.”

This is, of course, unlikely to happen anytime soon, as James is in the first season of a four-year contract with the Lakers and is planning to continue playing beyond that deal, per Vardon. However, when the time comes, it sounds like LeBron will be ready, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote in his own story on the subject earlier this week.

Meanwhile, James’ good friend Dwyane Wade is headed for retirement at season’s end, and while Wade isn’t necessarily as well positioned to purchase a franchise, the idea of owning a team intrigues him too, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Wade has previously mentioned the appeal of becoming part of an ownership group that would bring the NBA back to Seattle, but told reporters this week that he’s not solely focused on one city.

“I love Seattle,” Wade said. “It’s great, Unfortunately it’s not a part of the NBA. When a question was asked what franchise you want to see back, Seattle was one for me. And we talking about who I want to be ownership of, Miami has first dibs and then I go from there. … Obviously, this organization (the Heat) is the first one I would love to talk about that when the time is right.”

As Jackson observes, Heat majority owner Micky Arison hasn’t shown any interest in selling the club, but he might – hypothetically – be open to selling a small share of the franchise to Wade, who could serve as a minority stakeholder after he retires as a player. As with LeBron though, that’s likely a discussion to be had down the road.

Grizzlies Owner Talks JJJ, Gasol, Bickerstaff, More

Due to an unusual agreement with a pair of minority stakeholders in the Grizzlies, Robert Pera‘s position as the franchise’s controlling owner was tenuous up until April of this year. At that point, Pera reached a deal to buy out those minority owners – Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus – to retain control of the team and to cement his status as the Grizzlies’ owner going forward.

As a result of his newly stable position, Pera became more involved with the team during the 2018 offseason, as he tells Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian in a wide-ranging Q&A. According to Pera, he was personally involved in “pretty much every single one” of Memphis’ offseason transactions, which included signing Kyle Anderson and drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.

Pera weighed in on the decision to draft Jackson and several other subjects, including whether Memphis fans should be worried about the threat of relocation. Let’s dive in and round up some of the highlights from the Grizzlies owner…

On drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.:

“One of the biggest reasons we drafted Jaren and also Jevon (Carter) is we did a really in-depth character background and he comes from very good upbringing. His mother is head of the Players Association of the WNBA. When you have players that have the physical attributes, a feel for the game, and they have solid character and solid upbringing, those are all characteristics of players who are some of the most special players in the league, like a Steph Curry.

On whether he’s confident Marc Gasol, who can reach free agency in 2019, will remain with the Grizzlies long-term:

“I can’t read his mind, but if it were up to me I certainly want him to retire as a Grizzly.”

On giving interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff the permanent coaching job instead of conducting a full-fledged search in the spring:

“One of the things I preached to the front office, I wanted continuity. I always say to the front office, if you want to build a high-performance team, the guys in the locker room can’t see a new face every other week. Right? You need to build a continuity and a familiarity where people can depend on each other, they know who’s in the room and they know they are going to war with the same people every night. A lot of the players knew J.B., so there’s continuity. But on top of that, we have this selfless style of basketball and culture and he’s a very selfless guy. He has the team’s best interest in mind. He fits perfectly with the team.”

On his ongoing confidence in GM Chris Wallace:

“I obviously had my hands in a lot of the moves this offseason, but the way I look at it is, collectively you make some bad decisions, and we made some good decisions, but we don’t like to point at certain people. It’s a collective effort. Chris and the front office, I think this offseason we really surpassed a lot of expectations.”

On whether Memphis basketball fans should be at all worried about him moving the franchise somewhere like Seattle:

“I don’t want any part in relocation. I have my own career, I’m trying to focus on it, I want to keep distractions and chaos to the minimum. I’m committed to Memphis for the long term. And in the world today, it’s so virtual. I have 15 research and development offices around the world, I probably only spend a third of my time in the U.S. When I’m in the U.S., I’m in a bunch of different cities. My employees are in a bunch of different time zones. I keep track of everything virtually. To me it doesn’t matter where the team is located. Memphis is as convenient a place as any. So, yeah, there should be no concern.”

Robert Sarver: Suns Won’t Move Out Of Phoenix

Suns owner Robert Sarver delivered an important message to fans on Thursday, denying that he’ll move his team out of Phoenix if Talking Stick Resort Arena doesn’t undergo a $230MM upgrade.

“The Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix,” Sarver said. “I am 100% committed, and have been for the last four years, to find a solution to keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”

A Suns city council member told Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic that Sarver threatened to take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the new arena deal isn’t approved, but the council member has since walked his comments back on the two cities, according to Roberts. However, Suns CEO and President Jason Rowley acknowledged the possibility of moving the team somewhere else in the Valley or out of state only as a last resort.

Sarver purchased the Suns for $401MM back in 2004. The franchise has made the postseason just five times in that span, with their last appearance coming during the 2009-10 season. They have the league’s worst record at 4-24 through 28 games.

“I’m a strong proponent — as evident by the term sheet I signed last week — that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility,” Sarver said. “In addition, it is important for the Phoenix Suns to build a first-class practice facility so the players of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury can continue to develop. I am 100% all-in on keeping this team right here where we stand, and I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear.” 

Talking Stick Resort Arena — formerly known as the US Airways Center — has been the home of the Suns since 1992. The Phoenix city council will vote on January 23 on the proposal, which could also extend the Suns’ contract to play in the arena until 2032, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.

Sarver Threatens To Move Suns To Seattle Or Vegas?

In the midst of a battle with the city of Phoenix over funding for arena renovations, Suns owner Robert Sarver has told some city council members that he’ll take the franchise to Seattle or Las Vegas if he can’t reach a deal in Phoenix, reports Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic.

As Jessica Boehm of The Arizona Republic outlines, the Phoenix City Council had been set to vote on a proposal that would see the city pay $150MM on a $230MM renovation plan for Talking Stick Resort Arena, with the Suns contributing the remaining $80MM. The deal would have also ensured that the Suns were committed to staying in Phoenix through at least 2037.

However, in the wake of “backlash from the community,” it appears that vote will be postponed. According to Roberts, delaying the vote will allow time for a pair of public hearings on the project, whereas if the Phoenix City Council shot down the proposal today, it might kill future prospects for a deal. There are seven city council members and at least three are currently opposing the arena renovation plan.

As Boehm explains, the Suns’ current arena lease runs through 2032, but that agreement includes a provision that would allow the franchise to opt out in 2022 if its building is considered “obsolete.” If the renovations are approved, they’d take place between 2019 and 2021, ensuring that the arena is modernized.

Given the nature of the situation, Sarver’s threats to move the franchise could simply be a way of regaining the upper hand and forcing city council members to seriously weigh the ramifications of turning down the funding plan for those arena renovations. If the Suns were to leave Phoenix, the city would have to take over operations and maintenance of Talking Stick Resort Arena, Boehm notes.

While the NBA reportedly has no plans for expansion in the next several years, there are several cities interested in a franchise, led by Seattle, which recently secured an NHL team. With relocation looking like the only viable way to get an NBA franchise to Seattle anytime soon, team owners seeking public funding for new arenas or arena upgrades may try to use the threat of a move to the Pacific Northwest as leverage during the next few years.

Taking that into account, I don’t know that we should take Sarver’s threats too seriously for now, and I wouldn’t expect the NBA to idly stand by if he attempts to move his team out of one of the country’s largest cities, but this is a situation worth watching closely going forward.

Kevin Durant Discusses Seattle, Interest In Owning NBA Team

After suggesting back in October that he’d love to see the city of Seattle get an NBA team again, Kevin Durant went a step further on Wednesday, suggesting that it’d be a “great story” if he could be involved in the ownership of a Seattle franchise someday, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays.

“Hell yeah,” Durant told Friedell when asked if he’d be interested in being part of an ownership group for a Seattle team. “Of course I would. No matter if it’s Seattle or any team, just to help young men grow. Or help men in the next phase of their lives as basketball players. Why not? Especially somebody who’s gone through it and been through just about everything as an NBA player, outside of getting traded, I’ve been through pretty much everything. I would love to give back to an organization, the knowledge that I’ve gained. So hell yeah I’d be interested.”

The NHL officially confirmed this week that it will launch a franchise in Seattle for the 2021/22 season, but an NBA return to the city still doesn’t appear to be on the table. As we detailed on Wednesday, most people around the NBA don’t expect the league to seriously consider the possibility of expansion for at least another five to seven years.

Nonetheless, Durant – who has expressed a desire in the past to get into NBA team ownership once his playing career is over – is hopeful that the city where he started his career will eventually get the SuperSonics back. And he’d like to be involved in that process, even as he acknowledges that it would be a huge challenge.

“It’s just the fact that I played there and I get so much love there,” Durant told Friedell. “More than any city in the league probably. Look, it would be a great story. But it would be a lot of hard work, it won’t be easy because it’s Seattle. After the press release and the first couple of weeks it’s straight to work.

“I know people want to tie me into Seattle a lot, and I love being part of that, but I’m not just waiting for that opportunity,” Durant continued. “Any opportunity that comes around where I could become [part of] an ownership group or a front office or anywhere I could just help the team as of right now in my life I would go for it, but who knows what will happen at the end of my career?”

And-Ones: Seattle, G. Davis, Conley, Embiid

The city of Seattle will become the home of the 32nd NHL franchise, as our sister site Pro Hockey Rumors detailed earlier this week. However, a return to Seattle still doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon for the NBA.

According to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports, who spoke to multiple sources about Seattle, the league’s owners aren’t even considering the possibility of expansion at the moment. Most people expect it to be at least five to seven years before the NBA starts thinking seriously about expanding, according to Helin, who notes that it could be part of the next TV package discussions in 2025.

If Seattle has any chance to get any NBA team before then, it would likely have to be via relocation rather than expansion, Helin continues. Still, while there has been some speculation about the long-term viability of the Grizzlies and Pelicans in Memphis and New Orleans, respectively, no NBA franchises – including those two teams – appear to be in any imminent danger of leaving their current towns.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The next stop for former NBA big man Glen Davis may be the Canadian Maritimes. According to Robin Short of The Telegram (hat tip to Sportando), the St. John’s Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada have agreed to terms on a contract with Davis, who left his team in Croatia last month.
  • In an interesting Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a closer look at playing-time incentives for Mike Conley and Joel Embiid, who can fully lock in the guarantees later in their max contracts by reaching certain benchmarks in games or minutes played. Marks also explores the pressure Andrew Wiggins is under to live up to his max deal, the Kings‘ balancing act between winning and developing players, and more.
  • The Pelicans, Rockets, Wizards, Heat, and Mavericks are the would-be contenders who most need to make a trade, in the view of Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer. Meanwhile, a handful of NBA.com writers weigh in on the teams most in need of a shake-up, and many of the same clubs are mentioned.

Seattle Remains Unlikely To Get NBA Team In Near Future

The NBA will return to Seattle on Friday night, as the Kings and Warriors play one another at KeyArena, but the league still isn’t expected to return to the city on a permanent basis anytime soon, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst details in an in-depth report.

According to Windhorst, the NBA doesn’t have expansion on its timeline and the latest arena developments in Seattle weren’t discussed at the league’s Board of Governors meeting last month. Sources tell Windhorst that some prospective NBA ownership groups have been told by league officials that expansion may not happen until at least 2025, when a new TV deal can be negotiated.

The Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, led by veteran executive Tim Leiweke, is currently in the process of redoing KeyArena — the arena will close for renovations following Friday’s game. That renovation project, which initially had a $600MM price tag, is now projected to cost $750MM, Leiweke tells ESPN. When it’s finished, the New Arena at Seattle Center – as it’s now known – is expected to be ready to house an NHL team and an NBA team, as well as premium concerts and shows.

Seattle officials are optimistic that the city’s odds of landing an NBA franchise will increase substantially once that arena project is complete, with Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan indicating that she has spoken to commissioner Adam Silver and “communicated to him that we’re interested.” However, Windhorst notes that if an NHL franchise moves into the arena first, a hypothetical NBA team would be “arriving last to the party,” which could diminish the league’s interest.

As Windhorst explains, NBA franchise in major markets are increasingly looking to control their own arenas in order to maximize their revenue. The Warriors are doing just that with the Chase Center, and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has a similar plan in in the works to move out of the Staples Center and get his own building. Based on that trend, the NBA may ultimately be more interested in a rival Seattle arena plan from investor Chris Hansen. Hansen, who has long been interested in bringing the NBA back to Seattle, still hopes to construct a privately-financed arena in the city’s SoDo district, near the MLB and NFL stadiums. That project is still in the planning stages though.

For now, Silver and the NBA are focused more on building new audiences in non-U.S. markets than they are on expanding within the United States. Windhorst reports that the league is close to announcing the launch of an NBA G League franchise in Mexico City, which is expected to begin play in 2019/20. That G League team will serve as a “trial balloon” to see how an NBA team south of the border might function, Windhorst adds.

With expansion not on the table anytime soon, relocation would be another potential path to get the NBA back to Seattle. According to Windhorst, several prospective ownership groups are keeping an eye on the Grizzlies, since lawyers believe language in their long-term lease with FedEx Forum could create a window for the team to leave Memphis in 2021. However, team owner Robert Pera bought out a pair of minority owners earlier this year and said at the time that he was “committed to Memphis as an NBA market,” so there are no indications that he’d consider selling.

Ultimately, while the NBA seems destined to return to Seattle at some point, all signs point to that return being a ways off yet.

And-Ones: Seattle, Two-Way Deals, Trade Candidates

With the Warriors and Kings set to play a preseason game in Seattle this Friday, Kevin Durant – who began his NBA career with the SuperSonics – suggested this week that he’d like to see the NBA bring a team back to the city, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes.

“Most definitely,” Durant said. “It’s a basketball city. It’s a sports town. … They have a good representation of basketball in the NBA from Seattle-born players, Washington state-born players. And I feel like that whole brand deserves an NBA team. Just like the Golden State Warriors deserve a team or the Los Angeles Lakers deserve a team, Seattle is that same way.”

While the city of Seattle would almost certainly be next in line if the NBA decides to add a new team, the league has shown little desire to expand beyond 30 franchises, and none of those 30 clubs appears to be in any danger of being relocated in the near future. As such, it remains to be seen when we might see the SuperSonics return to the NBA.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The introduction of the two-way contract was one of the major changes in the NBA’s most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, and so far it has been a relative success, creating job opportunities for 60 additional players, as Michael Scotto of The Athletic observes in a deep dive on the subject. However, some agents would like to see the system tweaked a little, suggesting that multiyear two-way deals shouldn’t be permitted and that there should be a limit to the number of two-way contracts a team can sign in a given league year.
  • Dan Feldman of NBC Sports identifies five top candidates to be traded during the 2018/19 league year, ranging from the obvious candidates (Jimmy Butler) to some under-the-radar ones (Dewayne Dedmon).
  • Former Celtics and Cavaliers power forward Luke Harangody continues to play professionally overseas, having signed this week with Spanish team Joventut Badalona, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The former second-round pick has now played overseas for several years, last appearing in the NBA in 2012.