Chris Hansen has a deal to build an NBA arena in Seattle, and another to buy a team. Grade-school teachers say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, so we took a shot at asking and answering a few of the basics.
Q: Is it time pull my old Sonics gear out of the closet and dust it off?
A: That depends on whom you ask. There are still two lawsuits seeking to block the deal to build the arena, and those could take awhile to resolve. Environmental review and a freight-mobility study are being done. City and county leaders acknowledge those are hurdles, but none seem too concerned that they won’t be cleared.
The NBA must sign off on the sale of the Kings from the Maloofs to Hansen, and approve the move to Seattle, but Yahoo sports has reported that’s more of a formality. Still, it sounds like Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has successfully kept the team in his city before, plans to fight to the end and is busy rounding up investors there to pitch the league a counter-offer.
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Certainly, though, this is the most significant step yet toward the return of the Sonics. So wear that Wilkens, Kemp or Payton jersey with only slightly nervous anticipation.
Q:Are you sure? We’re not going to be home to the Seattle Kings, are we?
A: Don’t worry about that. Seattle SuperSonics banners, trophies and retired jerseys remain in Seattle, and so will the team’s name.
When Clay Bennett — ahem — moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, he retained the rights to the SuperSonics’ name and logos. But he also agreed not to use them and to turn over the rights to a new owner at no cost if the NBA approved a return to Seattle. There is no doubt Hansen, who grew up a Sonics fan in Seattle, will keep the name.
Q:I see what you did there. Should I feel guilty about us doing this to Sacramento?
A: That’s entirely up to you. Some people say it’s the same thing Bennett did to Seattle. Some people say Sacramento has had plenty of time to come up with its own plan and money for an arena to keep the team. Either way, it’s not as if well-meaning fans fretting about it is going to change anything, so you have our permission to just be happy.
Q: OK, so I’ll start watching Kings games. What do I need to know?
A: Well, if you stopped paying attention to the Sonics in 2008, you can pick up right where you left off. That team finished 20-62 before leaving town. The Kings have finished in last place in the five-team Pacific division four straight years and currently sit at 16-26. But, the Sonics-turned-Thunder made it to the NBA Finals four years later, and this Kings-turned-Sonics team has a similar potential for a quick turnaround, if the right executives are hired and they make the most of their high draft picks.
Q: Any other reasons I should care about this team?
A: The Kings’ star player is former Kentucky All-American Demarcus Cousins, a 6-foot-11 second-year player who averages 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds. They have a couple of local products that are worth watching. Guard Isaiah Thomas, who played at Curtis High School near Tacoma and starred at Washington, is an athletic 5-foot-9 with chutzpah. Guard Aaron Brooks, who played at Franklin High in Seattle, is another athletic player who can light it up. Both are part-time starters. The Kings’ head coach is Keith Smart, a former All-American player at Indiana.
Q:I’m not a basketball fan, but I love hockey. When will we get an NHL team?
A: It was always the plan to secure a basketball team first, to get started on arena construction. But Hansen needs a hockey team to maximize revenue, so rest assured he’ll do what he can to get a team here in the next few years.
Q: Tell me again why KeyArena is good enough for two more seasons, but not as a permanent home for the Sonics?
A: The short answer is that Hansen and his investment group say they won’t spend their money to renovate it or to buy a team to play there. The city tried to get Hansen to use that space for his arena, reportedly even offering it to him at a very steep discount.
But the numbers don’t pencil out, Hansen has said, because of the money it would take to renovate the Key and bring it up to current NBA standards, as well as the loss of potential revenue he expects from other projects planned next to the Sodo arena. The parking and traffic issues are worse at the Key as well, he said.
Q: So, when can I buy Sonics tickets?
It certainly is too early to know that. But we’ll keep you posted.
Financial sheets released by the city last year showed an average ticket price of $55, if you’re curious.