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Why should Seattle dance with Stern, NBA again?

David J. Phillip
AP Images
N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern, pictured here in Houston, in February, 2012.

If the backers of a plan to build a new sports arena in Seattle's SoDo area are successful, they'll be looking to attract both a professional hockey club and a professional basketball team as marquis tenants.

Seattle and King County lawmakers are poring over the proposal's details. In the coming weeks they'll cast votes on the arena plan, its call for up to $200 million in public bonds (to be paired with $300 million in private funds), a plan championed by investor Chris Hansen.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says success for arena-backers could set up an awkward situation. If built, basketball fans will have to lure a team by romancing a man whom  many blame for the departure of their beloved Sonics: NBA Commissioner David Stern.  

The "Ick" Factor

Art says, "David Stern was the acme of arrogance in his dispatch of the Sonics and his collusion with Clay Bennett to make it all happen," Bennett, the Sonics' final owner, moved the team with Stern's backing to Oklahoma City in 2008. 

"But the fact is Seattle is going to have to get back in bed with David Stern and the N.B.A. if they want this to happen," Art says. "Boy, is there an ick factor here!"

Why deal with "a ruthless business cartel" ?

In a February articlein Sportspress Northwest, Art wrote,

"... Stern and NBA owners are a ruthless business cartel well experienced in manipulating public sports passion to their advantage."

Now, after five months, Art says he still stands behind that view. While the 'cartel' wielded a bloody blow to the Sonics, that same business structure is a needed, powerful player in helping the arena's investors bring men's pro basketball back to Seattle.  

Art says, "This is going to take three to four to five years (to secure an N.B.A. franchise if the arena plan is approved). The community will have a net benefit of being associated with the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., and having a venue that is going to bring...other benefits," he says.

It's not the same ol' N.B.A.

Art says recent changes make the N.B.A. a different beast today than the one that oversaw the Sonics departure. During the recent N.B.A. lockout, he says, some rules changed in favor of the owners of smaller-market teams. Art says the collective bargaining agreement that came out of the 2011 lockout means teams that are well-run have a better chance  to break even, especially with changes to player salary caps. 

"They managed to reign in some of the ridiculous salaries to be slightly less ridiculous."

You can read Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.