ESPN's 5-on-5 roundtable blog broached the subject of Adam Silver's agenda as NBA commissioner today, and yet again, professional basketball in Seattle was a point of discussion.
Kevin Pelton, NBA Analyst for ESPN Insider, addressed the first problem Silver needs to fix:
"Is this where I say Seattle needs a team? I'm biased, of course, but each day that one of the nation's 15 biggest markets (No. 13 by the most recent Nielsen DMA ratings) with a history of supporting the NBA sits dormant is a missed opportunity. I don't think this issue will be resolved until the league knows the long-term fate of the Bucks in Milwaukee, but a strong early declaration of support from Silver would help ease the fears of pessimistic Sonics fans."
Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN's TrueHoop blog and WarriorsWorld.com echoed Pelton's call for a return to Seattle, while also critiquing the previous commissioner's preference for putting publically-subsidized arenas and small markets at the forefront of the league's relocation and expansion efforts:
"The NBA was penny-wise, pound-foolish in moving teams to the cheapest arena situations. It was part of a dynamic where smaller markets beat out bigger markets because they were more desperate to pay for arenas upfront. In the end, this hurt the NBA. TV rights exploded, making big-market television money more valuable than ever before, and the league was less popular for having fewer teams in places where people live. Maybe Silver can be the commissioner who gets a second team in Chicago, a second team in the Bay, and of course, a team back in Seattle."
Joining the chorus of Seattle (and in his case, Las Vegas) advocates was Michael Wallace, when asked which long-term opportunity deserved Silver's focus:
"Award franchises to Seattle and Las Vegas. Obviously, the league's 30 current owners would ultimately have a huge say in expansion. But the NBA essentially owes Seattle a team at this point, and Vegas would be one of the most intriguing markets in the league. Stern seemed reluctant to push for teams in either locale."
So, what meaning, if any, should we Sonics fans glean from another mention of our city's NBA aspirations in the national sports media?
To quote the great Wally Walker, I sense a new "rational" narrative regarding Seattle basketball emerging.
Over the past six years, Sonics fans have lobbied hard - first with Sonicsgate, then with a televised rally during the 2012 NBA Finals, and third with Chris Hansen's unsuccessful effort to relocate the Sacramento Kings through a signed PSA with the Maloof family.
During that time, media outlets across the country descended on the same narrative: the resilient Sonics fanbase has hopes - perhaps against better reason - that the NBA will return to the Emerald City soon. But was it worth the pain and suffering of another team's relocation? Was it rational to turn down one faithful market for another because of the hard feelings of 2008?
In retrospect, many fans of Seattle basketball are somewhat relieved not to have done to Sacramento what Oklahoma City did to us. Still, set in the context of a Seattle Seahawks Superbowl victory and subsequent 700,000-fan frenzy in Downtown Seattle, a fundamentally true facet of what gave us fans so much confidence during last year's relocation attempt seems to be coming to light for a number of sports media figures - from David Aldridge, to Jeff Van Gundy, and now a trio of ESPN writers:
Returning the NBA to Seattle isn't just the right decision. It's the rational decision.