A New Arena And The NHL Are On The Way

There’s been a lot of news in this area lately.  For starters, the MOU for the SoDo Arena has expired.  What a shame.  We had so much hope for that arena, that location, and the impending move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, and piece by piece that dream was destroyed.

There were ultimately a lot of forces at play preventing the SoDo Arena from ever coming to fruition, but if I’m being honest, as much as I want to rail against the NBA, the shady Sacramento city government, the do-nothing Seattle City Council, the Port, the Mariners, and everyone else who fought tooth and nail to torpedo Chris Hansen’s plan, I would argue that just as much blame falls on Chris Hansen’s shoulders.

Not because he wasn’t a better politician, not because he donated money against the Sacramento arena plan (drawing the NBA’s ire), and not because he couldn’t attract enough local money (particularly when Steve Ballmer dropped out to buy the Clippers).  I blame Chris Hansen because, as crazy as this sounds, he never went far enough.  He never went above and beyond.  He kept trying to pinch pennies when – if he really wanted to get the job done – he should’ve over-paid.

I sound like an asshole for saying that, and I get it:  Chris Hansen is a saint.  He tried to almost single-handedly bring the NBA back to Seattle!  Not because he could make a buck on it, but out of the goodness of his heart.  He was not only going to pay for the arena himself, but he was going to plow a bunch of millions of dollars into improving the city around him, with the Lander overpass and the money earmarked to improving Seattle Center.  Hell, he even cobbled together a last-ditch plan to renovate Key Arena while at the same time building his SoDo Arena!

But, that’s just it.  It seems like it was ALL last ditch efforts.  His initial plan wasn’t to make the SoDo Arena 100% privately funded; that only came about when he was met with push-back and the probability of the city going in another direction with the Oak View Group.  Initially, Hansen was asking for tax breaks or whatever.  Then, when the Kings were up for auction, he put up his bid – which was ultimately met by the bid of the current owners – and the NBA sided with the group looking to keep the team in Sacramento.  It wasn’t until after the NBA made its decision did Hansen opt to tack on an extra $100 or $150 million.  Had he gone above and beyond from his opening bid – essentially making the Maloof brothers an offer they couldn’t refuse, and that couldn’t be met by any other gaggle of billionaires – we would have the Sonics back in Seattle right now.

Ultimately, Chris Hansen was willing to do the most and pay the most; he would always have the final word that went above and beyond what anyone else was willing to offer.  But, it was always too late.  It was always after agreements had been made by other parties.  Had he come correct, from the get-go, things would be very different right now.

It might be smart business – don’t start out with your final offer, have some bullets left in the chamber that you can offer to sweeten the deal – but that’s assuming you’re dealing with other businessmen, and not politicians.  If you’re dealing with businessmen, then yeah, of course they’ll accept the very best deal.  Why wouldn’t they?  With politicians, they’ve got other interests they have to take into consideration.  It’s not right; it’s not necessarily the way I would prefer the world works, but that’s life.

So, instead of having the NBA back and a sweet arena right next door to Safeco Field, we’re getting a renovated Seattle Center arena and the NHL.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Sodo Arena over the Seattle Center arena, but I feel less strongly about it than I once did.  Most of that has to do with the fact that I no longer live in South Lake Union, only a mile from Key Arena.  So, you know, I don’t have to deal with the bullshit traffic anymore.  And, if I’m being honest, it’s not like I’m going to attend all that many games in person.  I go to less than 10 Mariners games a year, and most of the time those are just excuses to socialize with my friends.  If you go to a sporting event in an arena, you’re pretty much there just to watch the game.  If you’re at Safeco, you can wander around, hang out in the beer garden, chit chat with your friends at your seats; it’s much more casual.  If I go to a hockey game at Seattle Center, I’ll probably just walk from my work on a Friday, or catch a bus or a Lyft or something.  I CERTAINLY won’t drive, or look to park there, because that would be insane.

Parking and traffic aside, whatever man, I don’t care.  Just build the fucking thing and get me a fucking professional winter sport.

As such, a new MOU was signed this month.  And, the NHL has already set in motion a process that should one day put a team in Seattle.

October 2020 is the estimated completion date.  But, considering they have to dig down to open the thing up – because the stupid roof is a historical landmark for some reason – I highly doubt this thing is going to finish on time.  Nevertheless, here we go!  The next few years should be fun!

Assuming, of course, the whole thing doesn’t get derailed by lawsuits, or the politicians getting cold feet.  Have I told you how much I hate this city?  Seattle sucks SO HARD.

I will say this, though:  I’m looking forward to professional hockey.  I’m not the biggest hockey fan in the world right now, but my brother is, and I’ve socked back a few beers and watched some games with him on TV, so I kinda sorta get the gist.  Assuming everything works out, and Seattle gets a team, you better believe I’m getting in on the ground floor!  I plan on familiarizing myself with the ins and outs and whathaveyous:  the rules, the history of the game, all of it.  I am BUYING in, big time!  And not just because I need more sports to write about on my blog between the end of football season and the start of baseball season.

I like hockey!  I don’t love it; as I said, I’m not a super fan or anything.  But, I feel like that’s because I’ve never had a team.  The closest team to me is in Vancouver BC, but that might as well be in Timbuktu.  When the shit do I ever go to Canada?  I’m pretty sure the last two times I’ve been to Vancouver, it was for Pearl Jam concerts.  It’s a pain in the ass just getting to Seattle, or Lynnwood, or God-foresaken Mill Creek; the rest of that stretch, up through Bellingham and on into Canada is the slog of all slogs.

And considering it’s not like the Canucks are featured on local television, I’d have to wait to see them on Hockey Night In Canada.

With a team in Seattle, with the games on Root Sports or whatever, being able to watch them on a regular basis, I feel like I could really get into the sport.  And, if they ever get good enough, who knows?  Maybe I’ll like them just as much as I did the Sonics!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hoping we get the NBA back someday, but hockey is more than a good-enough substitute.

It’s Looking Like Key Arena Or Bust

It’s been pretty quiet on the Seattle arena front ever since the City Council denied the street vacation.  Since then, Chris Hansen has taken another stab at trying to get things to go his way by making his arena deal fully privately financed.  Again, seems like a deal he could’ve brought to the table initially to get this thing going – just like he could’ve offered above-and-beyond what the Kings were worth, when they were on the open market, to force everyone’s hand in backing down – but I guess I sort of understand.  You hold some concessions back in the event your opponent asks for a little more, so they can feel like they got one over on you.  But, again, feels like it’s too little, too late for Hansen.

The city has opted to go another direction; they want a renovated Key Arena.  It’s a city asset, and they want to maximize its potential financially, so you can see where they’re coming from.  Is it good for the local sports fans?  Absolutely not.  Is it good for the neighborhood – already maxed to a breaking point with residents and traffic congestion?  Absolutely not.  Is it even good for the city?  That remains to be seen.  But, the city went and solicited plans to renovate the Key, and they’ve sided with the Oak View Group.

OVG is saying all the right things, of course.  They’re going to build a world-class arena.  It’ll be top notch as far as acoustics are concerned, which is a good thing, because the Key is severely lacking at the moment.  They’re also going to make it work with the current roof – being protected as a historical landmark or some damn thing – by digging down into the Earth to retrofit it for the NBA and NHL.  And, good news!  They’ve already got a potential ownership group ready and willing to bring the NHL to Seattle.

This is absolutely critical to the whole thing; of course, I’ll believe it when I see it.  OVG is supposedly building this thing to be a concert venue first and foremost; that’s how they can justify starting with construction without an anchor tennant attached.  This thing will apparently be financially viable even if there’s no NBA or NHL team.  That scares me a little bit.  Because where is their motivation?  Is OVG going to be part-owners of any team we bring in?  I’m not totally sure I know all the ins and outs of this thing, because I know the city gets a slice, and the prospective team ownership group gets a slice, and now OVG gets a slice; how many ways can you slice this thing to where it’s profitable for all parties involved?

The only thing that matters to me is getting the ol’ foot in the door.  Let’s get a winter sport attached to this thing and go from there.

If I had my choice, if it were all up to my decision, obviously I’d do away with this Key Arena nonsense, approve the SoDo plan (and its fucking street vacation), and work things out so if the NHL has to be first, then so be it.  With SoDo, there’s no wait; with the Key, I believe they won’t be able to start construction until 2019 or 2020.  With SoDo, we’ll be able to build the type of palace that the leagues can be proud of; with the Key, it’s still going to be one of the smallest buildings in either league, and it’ll likely be out-dated as soon as it opens.  What happens when we have to renovate the Key yet again in another decade, to put in more suites or seats or a bigger jumbotron or whathaveyou?  On top of that, the SoDo area can handle the traffic; the new Key will absolutely cripple South Lake Union on gamedays.  In SoDo, you’ll be able to take a bevy of public transportation options; in SoDo, you can actually park if you want to drive.  At the Key, you can really do neither.  There are bus lines, but no light rail.  The Monorail is a stupid joke that the Seattle Times is trying to pass off as viable (even though, DUH, there’s nowhere to park in downtown Seattle either).  Also, don’t be surprised if the average fan is priced out of the Key; how else are they going to recoup costs and what will almost certainly be construction cost overruns?

It’s frustrating because the city of Seattle is, once again, making the wrong choice.  The Seattle Way is also The Way Of The Moron.  Seattle loves to look a gift horse in the mouth while it’s getting buttfucked by an STD-riddled Trojan Horse.  I can’t wait for this to blow up in everyone’s faces so all of us fans of the SoDo Arena can tell these cunts, “I Told You So!”  Except, of course, by that time, the SoDo land will have been sold for office buildings and condos, and we STILL won’t have the fucking Sonics back in Seattle.

It’s really starting to dawn on me that I’m never going to have the Sonics back in my lifetime.  Even if I have a good 30 years left in me, which is probably being pretty generous, where is the path to getting the NBA back?  Getting the NHL will be cool, and I’m sure I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly once it comes, but does that mean an NBA team isn’t far behind?  I wonder.

I keep hearing about how the NBA wouldn’t want to be a second-class citizen in a town that got the NHL first.  I don’t think that’s necessarily true, because I think this is a Sonics town through and through, but you could understand why they’d think that.

The fucked up thing is that Seattle is growing like crazy.  It’s got all these tech dollars here just burning holes in pockets!  These leagues should be busting down the doors to come to Seattle!  And, quite frankly, with how this city is pricing out the common man, thanks to the growth of Amazon, among others, we DESERVE to have these sports in this city.  We should get SOMETHING for how our city is being overwhelmed by the elites.

But, in the end, we’ll probably just get screwed over like we always do.  If you ask me, THAT’S the real Seattle Way.

How Will The Seattle City Council Screw This Up: Chris Hansen Agrees To Fully Fund New Arena

In news that’s music to the ears of all Supersonics fans, Seattle-area hockey fans, and presumably everyone who believes it’s the owners and not the taxpayers who should be paying for sparkling new arenas and stadia in the first place, word has come down today that the group – led by Chris Hansen – looking to build an arena in SoDo, in hopes of winning an expansion NBA franchise and/or an expansion NHL franchise, has agreed to tear up the MOU, eliminate the public financing of a potential new arena, and complete the funding of the Lander overpass.  All they’re asking for in return is the street vacation of Occidental Avenue, which was shot down earlier this year by … the Seattle City Council.

Obviously, this is terrific news, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t run around the city turning over cars in excitement.  With each positive development, getting the Sonics back feels more and more like a reality; with each negative development, it feels more and more hopeless.  I’ve been fucked over too many times by this God damned worthless city to even have this thing register on my personal Richter scale of emotions.  Will the city council even grant them this banal request?  Or, will they continue to proceed with their heads up their asses because they just don’t like sports and their constituency doesn’t see the value therein?

I’m a Sonics fan, and a sports fan, and I can tell you all about the value of sports, but that won’t do any good.  I’m also a citizen, and I firmly believe that owners SHOULD pay for their own arenas and whatnot.  Nevertheless, the sports fan in me – the Sonics fan in me – has gone along with the necessary evil that is our sports world today.  I mean, has there EVER been an owner in any major sport who has personally funded his own arena or stadium?  I feel like that would be pretty big news, right?

Which leads me to wonder:  if this works, and we DO get the Sonics back, what will the ramifications be going forward?  Other cities will be able to point to Seattle and tell their owners, “Look at what THEY were able to do!”  Other city councils will be able to look at how Chris Hansen was strong-armed and might fortify themselves even further against money-grubbing owners.

At the same time, of course, there are always going to be cities out there willing to pay.  If San Diego doesn’t want to fund a new stadium, then guess what:  there will be cities lining up willing to do the Chargers’ and the NFL’s bidding.

This also leads me to wonder:  what will the NBA think about this?  Is the pull of all the cash in Seattle right now able to out-weigh the precedent this sets?

But, more than anything, this leads me to wonder:  how long until the Sonics are able to sign Kevin Durant to a big money deal so he can finish his professional basketball career where he started?

Can we just stick me in a cryogenic chamber and wake me up in the future when all of this is settled and I can attend a Sonics game again?

My Feelings About Steve Ballmer Buying The Los Angeles Clippers

This week’s 24:  Live Another Day moment:  “Jack wants her, Jack needs her:  Jack gets her!”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  History’s greatest hero and national treasure – Jack Bauer – is also a Grade A #1 Heartthrob and an otherworldly ladies man.  Granted, in this week’s episode, the “her” in this situation is Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent, and the reason he “gets her” is to use her as bait so he can infiltrate this coven of bad guys to upload a virus whereby Goth Chloe can learn all their secrets – including, hopefully, the whereabouts of Scary Terrorist Lady.  NEVERTHELESS, as expected, Jack Bauer figures out a way to save the day and pull Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent to safety (after she did a good amount of ass-kicking in her own right).  Is this a match made in heaven?  Only time will tell, I suppose.  Jack’s playing this one close to the vest, so we’re not even sure if he’s interested in Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent yet.  And, as we all know, all it takes is Jack being interested for the targets of his affection to be putty in his hands.  Also, MOLE ALERT!!!  Benjamin Bratt, you walking Scum of the Earth!  You’ll get yours!  (P.S.  I’m very curious to see who’s on the other end of that phone conversation) …

Sonics fans have a lot of conflicting feelings about last week’s news of Steve Ballmer buying the L.A. Clippers.  What does this mean for our chances to get a new team?  Does he know something we don’t?  Will the NBA be as willing to give this ownership group a new franchise when it doesn’t have Ballmer attached?  Will he move the Clippers to Seattle?  If he doesn’t, does that make him a traitor?

First of all, let’s PLEASE put to bed the whole Clippers to Seattle talk.  Never, in a million years, will that EVER HAPPEN.

Here’s my opinion on the matter.  Yes, I do think Ballmer knows something we don’t.  I think he’s heard first hand from the commissioner and other high ranking officials that Seattle isn’t getting a team anytime soon.  We all know the league is doing whatever it takes to prevent teams from leaving cities, so that’s not a very valid option.  And, I just think there’s zero incentive whatsoever for the league to expand when things are going as good as they are now.  MAYBE in a decade, but I can all but guarantee that we’re not getting a team in the next three years, when this current MOU is still valid (and, after that, who knows if we’ll be able to get another agreement with the city in place, but that’s a thought for another day).

I also think Steve Ballmer really wants to own an NBA franchise.  Like, REALLY wants to.  Like, it’s one of his lifelong dreams.  Knowing that Seattle wasn’t happening anytime soon, and knowing that teams rarely get put up for sale on the open market like this, Ballmer took this opportunity to pounce and realize his dream.

In that sense, I don’t begrudge the man.  I also don’t think it affects our chances very much at all, because Chris Hansen has proved to be most dedicated to this cause.  It’s all going to boil down to having an arena deal in place when the opportunity arises for a new team to be introduced into the league.  And, for the record, I do like having Ballmer in there already, as an advocate for Seattle getting a new franchise.

Here’s my main hang-up:  where the FUCK was Steve Ballmer in 2005 and 2006?

Look, I don’t believe you go from being indifferent about the NBA, to paying two BILLION dollars for your very own NBA franchise, in the blink of an eye.  In this day and age, if you’re getting into the sports franchise ownership business – which is a difficult nut to get into – it’s because you have a real passion for sports franchise ownership.  Specifically, it’s because Ballmer has a real passion for the NBA.  I don’t know his story intimately, but I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that he’s at least a lifelong NBA fan.

Taking that for granted, and knowing he was probably as rich in 2005 as he is now (or, at least rich enough to afford the Sonics in 2005/2006), why didn’t he make more of a push to buy the Sonics when he had the chance?  Who cares if he didn’t grow up in Seattle?  He obviously had ties to Seattle then, and continues to have ties here now.  It may not have been his dream as a child to own the Supersonics, but he had the opportunity and the convenience to own them as an adult, when he was a resident of the area!

Why did it take him until 2008 to even get in the fray?  At which point, he made an empty promise to put up $150 million of a proposed $300 million to renovate KeyArena – after the point where things had soured irreparably and Clay Bennett already had the team 9/10 out the door and on the way to OKC.  Why didn’t he make a REAL attempt at saving the Sonics back when the Sonics could be saved?

That’s what really irks me in this whole mess.  Yeah, Steve Ballmer has his team.  Good for him.  Meanwhile, this time next month will mark six full years since the NBA left Seattle, and we’re still twisting in the wind wondering when we’re going to get our shot again.

People keep saying to be positive.  That we’ll get our chance, it’s only a matter of time.  I’m afraid that the Kings were our one true chance and they too were taken from us.

Steve Ballmer could have bought the Sonics, paid for 100% of a brand new arena, and STILL had over $1 billion to shove under his mattress.  So, even if you’re irritated with Ballmer like I am, at least know that his petty indecisiveness and his lack of foresight cost him an extra billion dollars.

I may not go so far as to hate the man, but I’m also not going to praise him either.  He seems to be this beloved figure in some circles even though he’s done NOTHING for the Sonics.  He had a lot of good intentions, but I can’t build my house on good intentions.  What did he really do?  He came in WAY too late to offer to help renovate KeyArena.  Then, he joined up with Chris Hansen in his deal.  But, he hasn’t actually DONE a damn thing!  Steve Ballmer wanted to be an NBA owner, but apparently not bad enough to actually buy the Sonics when Howard Schultz was selling.  Now, he is an NBA owner, and good for him, I guess.  But, forgive me if I don’t spend the rest of my life kissing the man’s ass for doing the LEAST amount of work possible in order to save/bring back our Sonics.

The Kings Won’t Be Moving To Seattle

And just like that, it’s all over.

What started back in January with Chris Hansen reaching a deal to purchase the Kings from the Maloofs has ended with the NBA Board of Governors rejecting relocation of those Kings to Seattle, effectively voiding the agreement to buy the majority of the team.  On the table is still the 20% backup deal, but at this point does anyone give two shits about that?

We’re stuck.  We’re back where we were before that calendar flipped to 2013.  We still have an MOU that’s good for five years (so, through 2017, I guess), we still have the land and the arena deal in place, and we still have an ownership group who ostensibly will be willing to stick around at least through the end of the MOU.  The window is still open, but it’s time to stop thinking about relocation of an existing team.

It’s time, now, to turn our focus to expansion.

The NBA has said that it won’t start working on expansion until it has had a chance to renew its national television deal.  The current deal runs through the 2015/2016 season, which is three years away.  Reports indicate that the league will start preliminary talks this summer after the Finals, with an eye toward getting a new deal in place sometime in 2014.  So, in theory, by this time next year we should know whether or not the NBA is going to keep its promise to address expansion, and of course which cities will be in the running.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as, “Here you go Seattle.  You’ve been a good sport throughout all this; take this brand new team and make it your own!”  There is a bidding process.  Other cities have to be given a chance to present their cases.  In places like Kansas City and Anaheim, we’re talking about cities who already HAVE arenas built.  Kansas City has been waiting around FOREVER to get a team back (after the Kings moved away, irony of ironies).  I know Virginia Beach was on the table, maybe St. Louis, maybe Albuquerque.  I’m sure a whole slew of others.  Seattle can’t just sit back and relax.  There is still work to be done.

Could the NBA screw us over once again?  Of COURSE they could!  We were a thorn in their side back in 2007 and 2008, we’ve been a thorn in their side this year, and these people have long memories.  On top of that, our arena deal doesn’t exploit the taxpayer like it should. 

Owners assuming the majority of the cost and the risk in building a new arena?  How gauche!

Seattle had traditional financing deals for the Seahawks and Mariners that really put the screws to its citizens; they must not care about basketball!

Seattle doesn’t have the support of its fans or politicians to support pro basketball; why don’t we give one of these other cities a chance!

After all, 1-sport towns are the NBA’s lifeblood …

And so on and so forth.  Just because you hear more and more talk about expansion, don’t believe for one second that it’s a done deal.  There are still countless ways the league can screw us over.

Yesterday sucked.  No matter how convinced you are that something is going to happen one way, you can never entirely rule out the opposite.  I went into yesterday rock solid in my belief that the NBA was going to keep the Kings in Sacramento.  Still didn’t stop me from having just a tiny shred of belief that the unthinkable could still happen.  That in a few short months the NBA could be back in Seattle where it belongs.

Of course, we’re not that lucky, so we have to wait.  Some more.  It feels like we’ve been waiting for generations; 2008 feels like a century ago.  For now, everything goes dark on the Sonics returning to Seattle.  Feel free to hope if you want, but I’m going back into my shell of I’ll Believe It When I See It.

We deserve better than this.  But, you don’t always get what you deserve.

Oh, So Now Expansion Is On The Table?

Twitter kind of exploded last night, thanks to @TheMontyShow’s report that Hansen’s continued association with the Maloofs has put his efforts in jeopardy to get an NBA franchise in Seattle.

Excuse me?  I understand, as it was told to me, that the NBA wasn’t even THINKING about expansion, let alone talking about it and making tentative plans.  All along, we’ve been told things like, “One city will end up being disappointed.”  Now you’re telling me there IS a compromise at hand?

A.  I’ll believe it when I see it.
B.  Where was all this talk weeks ago as you were holding Sacramento’s hand and walking it across the busy intersection?

We’ve been told all along that, essentially, this was our one chance at getting a team in Seattle.  By purchasing the Kings and moving them here.  More importantly, it appears that is the same message that has been conveyed to Hansen & Ballmer.  If they had even the slightest inkling that a compromise could be worked out, where indeed both cities could end up happy, I don’t think they would’ve gotten this far into bed with the Maloofs.

But, that’s just it.  If the NBA had this surprise in the works all along, then they’re idiots for waiting this long!  What, did they think Hansen & Ballmer would sit on their hands as the NBA did everything it could to put Sacramento into a position to defeat them?  Did they think H&B weren’t serious about bringing basketball back to Seattle?  The NBA left H&B no other choice but to play every card they could possibly play, including an increase in the amount of money offered to purchase the team, including an increase in the relocation fee, and including signing a backup offer for 20% of the Kings as a last-ditch effort to try and wait out this Sacramento arena situation.

NBA, it’s YOUR fault that it’s come this far.  Had you been a little more flexible before on your stance re:  expansion, then this could have gone much more smoothly.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say Sacramento has won.  They’ll keep the Kings and they’ll most likely figure out a way to get the Maloofs to sell directly to them.  Now, the question is:  will Seattle get theirs?  God dammit, I hope so.  I’m tired of this whole fucking thing.

The Neverending Kings/Sonics Saga Is Neverending

The official vote on whether to relocate the Kings or not is supposed to happen tomorrow.  As is widely known, the relocation committee voted 7-0 to reject the move.  As is a little less widely known, the vote was actually 4-3 in favor of rejecting the move, but in an effort to feign unanimity, there was an agreement to re-vote to make it 7-0 in favor of whatever actually won.

4-3 is a lot different than 7-0.  4-3 indicates a much closer vote.  4-3 indicates that this is a difficult decision.  4-3 indicates we’re VERY close to swaying things the other way.

As such, Chris Hansen & Steve Ballmer have increased their bid by another $75 million, for a total valuation of $625 million.  That’s $100 million more than the original agreed-upon price.  A couple of questions come to mind, as we’re told the Sacramento group is unwilling to match:

  1. If Hansen & Ballmer had originally agreed to pay this amount to the Maloofs, would Sacramento have EVER matched?
  2. What does this increase in cash mean for the vote this week?

By some accounts, this increase means absolutely nothing.  The NBA is dead-set against moving the team out of Sacramento.  Period.  As long as Sacramento has its arena deal in place, and as long as they were able to match the original Hansen/Ballmer bid, that’s good enough for the NBA.

In an effort to not get my hopes up, that’s what I’m choosing to believe.  I think it’s nothing more than a formality:  the vote will go in Sacramento’s favor.

Which makes this other bit of news a little more interesting.  The increase in the Seattle offer happened last Friday.  The following day, it was leaked that the Maloofs and the Seattle group reached a backup deal – in the event that the NBA rejects the move to Seattle – where Hansen/Ballmer will purchase 20% of the Kings right now and the Maloofs will continue to run the team for another year.

They have vowed to not sell to the Sacramento group.  Truth be told, I’m not so sure how much I want to trust the word of the Maloofs.  I think they could certainly be swayed to change their minds at a moment’s notice.  I tend to believe that they would RATHER sell to the Hansen/Ballmer group, but I think if they figure out a way to get their money, then they won’t really give two shits who ends up with the team.

Which leads me to my big conspiracy theory that I just thought up:  let’s say the NBA rejects the move.  And let’s say that the backup deal comes into effect.  That means Hansen/Ballmer now own 20% of the Kings (actually, 27% I guess?  Since Hansen already purchased that 7% that went up for sale after bankruptcy?) for however much they are projected to spend (anywhere from $120 to $125 million).  That leaves the Maloofs with 45% of the Kings.  The Sacramento group has already stated they will not match the new valuation of $625 million; they will stick with the valuation of $525 million.  However, what if they agree to purchase the remaining 45% of the team under the valuation of $625 million?  That would require them to pay only $281 million, which is less than the $341 million they would have to pay for 65% of the team under the $525 million valuation.  That would give them the majority of the Kings, it would screw over the Seattle group, AND the Maloofs would still get all the money they were promised under Hansen & Ballmer’s latest proposal.

That’s one way to screw the Seattle group out of the team.  Call it a longshot if you want, but never forget the Steve Hutchinson Poison Pill Contract.  People can be scumbags, especially if they’re desperate.  I wouldn’t put this past the Maloofs OR the Sacramento group.

Ostensibly, the Seattle group buying 20% of the Kings now as a consolation prize is a good thing.  It puts us in play.  It puts pressure on the city of Sacramento to get their arena deal in gear.  And, if they fail, we do this all over again next year.  Of course, if they succeed, then I suppose at that point the Seattle group has to bow out, but I’ve been wrong on that end before.

Every time I think this thing is done, Chris Hansen does something else to absolutely amaze me.  I still believe it is an incredible long shot that the Kings move to Seattle, but I’m happy to see we’ve got the right man running point on this.

We’ll find out tomorrow.  Or, we won’t.  Because the NBA will keep pushing things back until the end of fucking time.  Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part III

We continue from Saturday’s post on all the hated Seahawks, which was continued from Friday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Supersonics

A lot of real obvious candidates here.  It’s just a matter of organizing them in the proper order.

I, along with many of you, have Howard Schultz smack dab at the top of this list.  In fact, I would have to say – even though it’s been nearly five years since the team moved, and even though it’s been nearly seven years since he sold the team to those OKC goons – that Howard Schultz is Public Enemy Number 1 (regardless of sport) in the Most Hated Seattle Sports Figure list.

Really quick, my top 5 looks like this:  1. Schultz, 2. Behring, 3. Lincoln & Armstrong, 4. Bennett, 5. Bavasi

Easy, right?  For the record, Lincoln & Armstrong are a package deal; they have morphed into this singular blob of incompetence.  Also for the record, Ruskell is a close 6th on that list.  My most hated PLAYER is and might always be Richie Sexson, because I’m irrational like that.

Anyway, getting back, I think it should be obvious why Schultz heads this list.  He’s the worst.  THE.  WORST.  First, let’s just get this out of the way:  he had NO BUSINESS getting involved with the NBA.  He should have just stuck with his season tickets and his corporate sponsorships and been happy with that.  He didn’t have the stomach to properly run the organization; instead, he tried to run it like a business.  This isn’t Starbucks, this is sports.  It’s a completely different ballgame (so to speak).  If your goal is to buy a team and try to turn a profit every year, then congratulations, you’re the Seattle Mariners.  You go forever without winning, you scale back payroll, you trade away your superstars for nothing, and you do just enough to turn a small profit every year (which, hey, beats losing money).

If your goal is to run a winning franchise, then guess what?  You can’t be all-consumed by the money coming in.  Turning a profit can’t be goal #1.  It’s got to be a residual from sustained success.

The Seattle Supersonics, as far back as I can remember, were a well-oiled machine.  Yeah, they’d have some down years, but they’d bounce right back and be contenders in short order.  That includes a lot of the 70s, most of the 80s, and most of the 90s.  Then, Howard Schultz bought the team in January of 2001.  In the five full seasons the Sonics were owned by Schultz, they made the playoffs twice:  once as a 7th seed and once as a 3-seed.  Both times, they lost to a far superior franchise, the San Antonio Spurs.  In the other seasons, the Sonics ended up 10th, 11th, and 12th in the West.

Schultz was involved with a controversial trade of Gary Payton.  He also let head coach (and Mr. Sonic) Nate McMillan walk (over to Portland where he coached the hell out of a mostly-mediocre team).  He did battle with the local & state governments over getting financing for a new arena, but once that failed he essentially threw up his hands and gave up.

Schultz had no interest in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.  If he had, he wouldn’t have sold them to a group that so clearly wanted to move the team out of state.  He can sit there and pretend he had “no idea”; he can cry out about how they “misrepresented” themselves when they purchased the team; but if he’s being honest then he’s the biggest fucking moron the world has ever known.

Here’s the thing:  Schultz isn’t being honest when he gripes about how he was duped (along with the rest of Seattle).  I’d like to point out that from the moment this deal was made, I knew those fucks from OKC would do everything in their power to move this team.  If I know that, and I’m just some yahoo fan with a pottymouth, then Howard Schultz sure as shit knew that too.  He just didn’t care.  All he cared about was receiving $350 million for a team he paid $200 million to acquire five and a half years earlier.

And that’s all you need to know about the Howard Schultz Era.  He was a greedy old man who let the Sonics move away.  He ran the team like a business, but not like a business he gave two shits about.  He ran this team like Ken Lay ran Enron.  Schultz may not have faced decades in prison, but he probably should.  If I had it my way, he’d be rotting in prison until the Sonics return to Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there.

If we’re jumping on the whole Sonics leaving Seattle saga, I’d rank former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels number two on this list.  That spineless weasel forced an agreement down our throats letting those OKC fucks take the team while the city received $45 million in return for the last two years of the KeyArena lease.  Had we forced them to honor those final two years, who’s to say what might have happened?  But, he was never officially a member of the Sonics organization, so fuck Greg Nickels.

Truth be told, I hate Clay Bennett’s puppetmaster – David Stern – far more than Mr. Bennett himself, but we’re sticking with a theme here of people specifically related to the Sonics organization.  Clay Bennett’s a rat bastard, to be sure, and when all is said and done I’d like to know what kind of buttfucking arrangement he has with Stern to make them so buddy-buddy; his blowjobs must be SOMETHING ELSE.  As such, now he does whatever David Stern says, essentially making them both one and the same.

It takes a lot of work to keep up a lie for so long.  Bennett bought the team in July of 2006.  Nearly two years went by before we finally got the official word that his intentions all along were to move the team to OKC; and even then, “official word” came in the form of e-mails to his cronies that were uncovered in the days & weeks leading up to the team leaving.  To the bitter end, Bennett affirmed his bullshit, and he has been rewarded with one of the best and most exciting teams in the NBA today.  There is no justice in this world if that team ever wins a championship.

From what I’ve been told, Wally Walker has been instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the team back to Seattle.  Also, from what I’ve been told, Wally Walker was dead-set against selling to those OKC fucks in the first place.  Nevertheless, Wally Walker appears on this list, because his tenure as GM of the Sonics was rocky at best.  You can’t have a Most Hated list without having a few GMs appear first.

For the record, yeah, Walker has been instrumental in working with Hansen & Ballmer, but he was also instrumental in getting Howard Schultz to be our primary owner in the first place to start this whole fucking mess.  It’s complicated with Wally Walker; he tries his fucking best, but God bless him, in the end he’s just a fuck up who can’t seem to ever get things right.

He joined the Sonics in 1994, right as this team was on its rise to the elite of the NBA.  In 1996, the Sonics were in the Finals, losing to the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Chicago Bulls.  From that moment, this franchise started on its long, slow decline to mediocrity, and it all starts with the next name on this list:  Jim McIlvaine.

Jim McIlvaine was signed to a 7-year, $33.6 million deal in July of 1996.  To that point, Jim McIlvaine had been a worthless pile of crap.  He would go on to continue being a worthless pile of crap.  So, not only was he overpaid and useless, but he also served as a reminder that this ownership group – and this general manager in particular – would rather reward potential from outside the organization than reward the superstars already IN this organization.  Shawn Kemp was resentful and rightly demanded a new contract.  He was denied, so less than a year after signing McIlvaine, Kemp demanded a trade.  Just before the 1997/1998 season, Shawn Kemp was traded for the NEXT name on this list:  Vin Baker.

One could argue that the Sonics dodged a bullet by trading away Shawn Kemp.  He went on to Cleveland, sat on his ass during the Lockout, got fat, and was never the same.  One could also argue that had the Sonics rewarded their budding superstar, he would’ve been kept in shape and kept in line by team leader, Gary Payton.  In Cleveland, Kemp was the big kahuna, and nobody was going to tell him what to do.  There was veteran leadership in Seattle that could’ve prevented such a fate.

Oh yeah, by the way, don’t forget that Vin Baker also sat on his ass during the Lockout, also got fat, and was a huge drunk to boot.  So, why didn’t this veteran leadership keep HIM in line like I’m saying they would’ve kept Kemp in line?  I dunno, probably because you can’t rationalize with a fucking alcoholic!  Also, probably because you have to have the Want To in order to succeed.  Vin Baker lacked that passion, that drive.  He took his solace in a bottle and that’s all there is to it.

Mind you, this chain of events all started with Wally Walker meddling with a good thing, then bungling things away.  More often than not, Walker made moves just to make moves.  Sometimes, you just need to let a team settle and grow on its own.  You don’t have to keep adding and subtracting to make things JUST RIGHT.  Just leave it be and hope things shake out as best as they can!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it!

Any number of bumbling big man buffoons could also make this Most Hated list (Calvin Booth, Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene), but that would ignore the real problem with the Sonics at the turn of the century:  Rick Sund.  Remember him?  God, I wish I didn’t.  Rick Sund took over for Wally Walker (as Walker was promoted to president or some damn thing) in 2001 and proceeded over one of the longest stretches of ineptitude in team history.

Seemingly every year, this team needed a big man.  Seemingly every year, this team went after a big man, either spending an ungodly amount of money in free agency, or by squandering a high draft pick.  Seemingly every year, this team failed to bring in a big man of any quality, and so seemingly every year this team struggled under Rick Sund.

Finally, there’s a name on this list I won’t ever forget.  Kendall Gill.  Back when Bob Whitsitt was still in charge, he traded a number of quality supporting players (Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson) to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill.  In his previous two years, Gill averaged 20.5 and 16.9 points per game.  We brought him in to be our starting shooting guard next to Gary Payton.  As chance would have it, he arrived on the scene in 1993/1994, as the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference.  We would go on to lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets.  The very next season, this team would make the playoffs again, and once again it would lose in the first round.

I’m not blaming it ALL on Kendall Gill, but he sure as shit was not a good fit for this team.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that as soon as he was traded (back to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in June of 1995), the Sonics would go on to make a run to the NBA Championship.

Gill didn’t get along with coaches or teammates.  He was a ballhog who shot too much.  Oh yeah, and he SUCKED DICK.  He immediately saw a dip in his scoring average (14.1 and 13.7 points per game in a Sonics uniform).  His pissy attitude didn’t endear him to Seattle fans either.  In short, Kendall Gill was a worthless dickhole and I can’t believe he managed to have such a sustained NBA career, considering what a joke he was.

A $25 Million Hail Mary

Of course, when I’m at my lowest point in this whole Sonics/Kings situation last Friday, later that same day news comes out that the Hansen/Ballmer group increased their offer to the Maloofs.  The overall valuation of the team increased by $25 million.

Now, don’t take the mocking tone of the title of this post as me taking this as anything but a positive.  Indeed, I’m happy and eternally grateful that the Seattle ownership group hasn’t just resigned themselves to Sacramento walking away without a fight.  It’s encouraging to know we’re not dealing with hard-liners, who draw a line in the sand once they’ve made their initial effort to get a team.  These things are constantly changing and require a lot of flexibility.  I’m glad they can see that and adjusted their strategy accordingly.

Up until the last week or so, the Seattle side of this fight had been in the driver’s seat.  They’ve dictated the tempo, and it has been up to Sacramento to play catch-up.  To their credit, Sacramento caught up.  Which, unfortunately, in this case, catching up is all they really have to do.  Tie goes to the runner in this game, Sacramento chopped a bouncer to the short stop, and they’ve got wheels running up the first base line.  If Seattle did nothing, if they left their offer as is, if they simply made it an argument about the two cities, then simply put, Seattle was going to lose.

An excellent article came out on SI.com just after Hansen & Ballmer increased its offer.  It went into great detail about Seattle’s presentation to the NBA a couple weeks ago.  Apparently, the Seattle group dug into the city of Sacramento, taking shots at their economy (struggling, while Seattle’s is booming), at their ability to get an arena built within their promised three years (more like six years, if other recently-built California stadia are any indication), and the fact that Sacramento would need to rely on bailouts from NBA revenue-sharing.  On the one hand, I’m glad they didn’t walk into that meeting solely extolling the virtues of Seattle; taking shots at the other side was definitely warranted if you want to paint the full picture of this deal.  On the other hand, though, I doubt those arguments would’ve been enough to tip the scales in Seattle’s favor.

We needed an ace up our sleeve.  Increasing the offer was that ace.

Make no mistake, this is something Seattle HAD to do.  It further increases the value of the Kings – which further increases the value of every other franchise in the NBA – so that’s an obvious plus.  But, it also says a lot more about their desire to be owners and Seattle’s hunger for professional basketball.  No, we won’t go quietly.  No, we won’t simply be used as the scary boogeyman to keep other city governments in line.

It says we belong here!  We deserve the NBA.  In fact, the NBA should BE so lucky as to have this ownership group and this city attached to its organization!

What Sacramento has done should be commended.  Hell, I think they deserve to be rewarded for all they’ve done in such a short time.  But, Seattle deserves a reward too.  Now is the time.  If I had it my way, both cities would get what they want:  Sacramento would keep the stinky ol’ Kings and Seattle would get a brand spankin’ new franchise.  But, by no means should the NBA keep the Kings in Sacramento and give Seattle nothing.

Of course, “should” is the key word in that sentence.  Will they keep the Kings in Sacramento?  My gut still points to Yes, they will.  But, after my confidence was at an all-time low last Friday morning (hovering right around 0% that Seattle would get the Kings), this offer increase – combined with all the arguments in that SI.com article – has me edging ever-so-close to 50% that Seattle will get the Kings.  I’d say I’m 51/49 in favor of Sacramento.  I guess we’ll see.

A Bunch Of NBA People Got Together & Nothing Happened

Was yesterday an important day?  Yes, I’d say it was a pretty important day.  Both the Seattle people and the Sacramento people got together in New York City to present their cases.  Two cities, one team.  They spoke to the two committees who need to know about relocation and finances.  Then, they all came outside and talked to the media.  They were all very excited about what happened and looking forward to two weeks from now when we might possibly (but probably not really) have an answer.

In short, a bunch of people got together, made a huge, hairy deal about it, and told the rest of the world absolutely nothing of note, except that it might take LONGER for us to know who gets to have professional basketball this fall.

We were supposed to find out on April 19th.  But, now, I guess not?

I think for the Seattle side of things, that’s a bad sign.  We already know that the NBA is giving Sacramento every opportunity to do what they need to do.  So, the longer the NBA gives them, the better their chances are that they will follow through.  Obviously, the NBA can’t appear as if they’re starving for franchises to move to other cities, but this is pretty depressing nonetheless.

I’ve lost all faith that this is going to shake out in our favor.  Momentum has completely swung away from us.  Whereas this was a totally Done Deal just a few months ago, now all anyone can talk about is Expansion.  All things being equal – which, they appear to be right now – the team stays in the city it’s playing in.  That’s just the way it goes.  And you can’t sit here and talk about all the nit-picky things Sacramento has to deal with – lawsuits, non-binding agreements, not-quite-yet owning all the land necessary to build the new arena upon – and then ignore all the nit-picky things Seattle has to deal with – lawsuits, environmental reviews, the fact that we don’t have a team and therefore have no cards in this game.  In the grand scheme of things, all things ARE equal.  And that spells doom for the Sonics.

The only ounce of a prayer we have is that the NBA will be so impressed by our ownership group that they will just GIVE us a new team.  After all, there’s a lot to be impressed about.  A big ol’ billionaire, a dynamic young billionaire, the heads of a local company with a powerful national presence.  These are people you’re happy to do business with.  These are people you want to have in your exclusive little club.  They may not be enough to steal a team away from another city, but there’s an outside chance that – in a couple years – we can have what we’ve wanted all along anyway.

It would be a shame to deny the Hansen/Balmer group.  I mean, look at what they’ve done in one fell swoop to increase the value of all NBA franchises.  If the Kings are worth more than $500 million, then what does that say about franchises like the Lakers or Celtics?  Their offer for the Kings becomes the new Bottom Line.  That means it only goes up from there!  For that, they SHOULD be rewarded.  If not by getting the Kings, then at least give them something brand new.

That’s the thinking, anyway.  More and more local journalists are siding with this theory, because they can read the writing on the wall.  Sacramento is going to win.  It’s going to go down as the greatest comeback story of all time.  They’ll get Will Smith to play Kevin Johnson, Gary Sinise to play Chris Hansen, Josh Brolin to play Clay Bennett, and Bobcat Goldthwait to play David Stern.

I’m a little more pessimistic.  I tend to believe them when they say they don’t want expansion.  Sacramento will get their arena built, and Seattle will continue to be the bogeyman the NBA uses to get all other NBA cities to fall in line.  Because, let’s face it, what is their motivation?  As long as Hansen and Balmer are around, offering up insane gobs of money for wilting franchises, willing and able to move a team to Seattle at the drop of a hat, increasing value for everyone else while getting the wayward organizations to fall in line.

How long was the NBA dealing with the Sacramento situation?  Years?  How long did it take to get a deal done when Seattle stepped into the fray?  Weeks?  Why would you ever get rid of that situation?  It’s the goose that lays the golden egg!

If you ask me, being “upfront” and “honest” with this whole thing is exactly the reason why Seattle will never get a team.  In today’s world, in today’s NBA, you have to be sneaky, underhanded, conniving.  You have to say one thing and mean another.  You have to swoop in under the cover of night and make way with what you’re after before the sun rises.

Nice guys finish last, don’t you guys listen to the cliches?  If you want something done right, you’ve got to get a little dirty.