It's looking more and more like the NHL will arrive in Seattle before the NBA returns and there are some issues that will have to be resolved, as a result.
The most obvious is the impact on the financing of the arena. It is well known that the current MOU is designed with the idea of the NBA arriving first. This means that either the MOU has to be revised in some capacity for the NHL or that some kind of private financing has to somehow replace the public's portion until the NBA arrives. Under either scenario, it seems that Steve Ballmer's involvement would smooth the way.
If the MOU concerns are addressed, then the NHL would get the arena built for the NBA, if nothing else.
There is, however, another obvious impact that will come to pass in a not-so-obvious way. Without question, the NHL's arrival will make a dent on the potential return of the Supersonics, but will it be a good dent or a bad one?
I've heard some express the 'screw the NBA' sentiment, which says "If the NHL arrives, then screw the NBA because the NHL wants us and the NBA doesn't." I've heard some diehard NBA fans express a fear that this attitude will overtake the Seattle fan base and ultimately torpedo the possibility of the Sonics returning.
I've heard some express concern that getting the arena built without the NBA will only perpetuate our current status with the NBA front office, which is that of Leverage City. Others have expressed confidence that this will give the NBA a greater sense of urgency to return because the league won't want to lose too much Seattle market share to a rival league.
WHAT I THINK
The 'screw the NBA' mindset is one that I feel at times and that will be expressed by a lot of fans in Seattle - right up until the moment that the NBA becomes an imminent possibility again. I don't care what I feel or Seattle fans say right now. If we are offered a team, then we will go nuts for it because, in the end, we just want our Supersonics back. All might not be forgiven of David Stern or even Adam Silver to a degree, but there's no way we're not going to do what it takes to get a team when the time comes.
Otherwise, I submit that the true impact depends on the true motives of the NBA. Do the owners truly view the Seattle market as "additive to the league," as Silver recently said? Do they really intend to return some day? Are they using us to resolve the Milwaukee situation with the idea of taking care of us soon after?
Or does the NBA truly not care one way or the other if Seattle ever gets a team again?
I would argue that the arrival of the NHL will either light a fire under the NBA's desire to return or expose its lack of desire to be here. If they want to be here, the NHL's arrival will give them a greater sense of urgency and they will go out of their way to award us a franchise. If the owners don't value the Seattle market, then the potential arrival of the NHL will have no impact, whatsoever.
My sense is the the NBA does want to be here some day and that the NHL will serve as motivation for them. I think the NHL's arrival would take the pressure off of us to get the arena built in the five year window and that this gives us a better chance of getting the Sonics back.
It will take a few years for the Milwaukee situation to play out, in my opinion. With the arena MOU concerns taken care of by professional hockey, this would give the NBA a chance to think this through and do it right. If the folks in Wisconsin can't get things done, that could mean relocation. If they do get it done, that could mean expansion.
But what do you think? Does the NHL help our NBA prospects or not?