Former Sonics guard Gary Payton says he is putting together a group that hopes to bring an NBA team back to Seattle.

Former Sonics guard Gary Payton said he and his agent are working with another former Sonic, James Donaldson, to put together a group that hopes to bring the NBA back to Seattle by 2011.

Payton, at Qwest Field to raise the 12th Man flag before Sunday’s kickoff between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, promised to help “as much as possible” to get a team back in Seattle — the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after last season — and get good players for that team. He also wants to be involved with that team in some way.

“We’re going to take it slow,” Payton said. “We’ve got to get a lot of other people involved, and that’s a process you have to do.

“It’s going to happen.”

Payton, who is retired from playing, spoke with Donaldson last week and said a lot of NBA players are trying to get a movement started to get Seattle a team.

Payton said he’d like to get his group set before bringing the cause to NBA commissioner David Stern. He was then asked about the start of the NBA season, about two weeks from now, and how it feels to not hear about a team in Seattle.

“It’s going to be weird,” Payton said. “I know the fans are going to hate that.”

Payton also made clear that he doesn’t care to have his number retired by the Oklahoma City Thunder and that basketball fans in Seattle should take heart.

“We won’t have a situation where a team will leave,” Payton said. “With these fans and the people’s spirits here, [that] will keep it upbeat.”

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or