Spencer Hawes is a Seattle dude.
Philadelphia 76ers Center Spencer Hawes was the only active NBA player who attended our 2008 Sonics rally at the courthouse. The University of Washington alumni arrived wearing a much-too-small Gary Payton jersey from his youth and showed that it is not necessary to take a controversial position or bad mouth the NBA to make a difference. His presence alone was enough to be inspirational to fans, letting us know that support for this market exists within the NBA.
Trying to get on the @sonicsarena ticket list but the website crashed. #highdemand— Spencer Hawes (@spencerhawes00) March 14, 2013
That support has continued to be evident with multiple players finding ways to show their lift up our beleaguered sports fans. This summer, Hawes' close friend Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers showcased our region's love of professional basketball with a Pro-Am Tournament featuring stars like Kyrie Irvin, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant.
While playing in that tournament Hawes took a moment to discuss the role he and others play in a community struggling to connect to the NBA after years setbacks and hardships
"It's kind of our responsibility." Hawes says, indicating Martell Webster, Jamal Crawford and other NBA players with local roots. "Being from here with everything the city and the fans do to support us we have to be the interim pro-basketball until there is a franchise here. We need to do as much as we can during the offseason, and even during the season to keep it relevant."
Maintaining interim interest in this market is no easy task.
Fans had seemingly begun to heal wounds incurred by the team's acrimonious 2008 departure to Oklahoma City, embracing the NBA's potential return only to be mishandled yet again when the league and city of Sacramento combined to undermine the contract Chris Hansen had negotiated in good faith to buy the team.
Despite being fully aware of Seattle interest in the franchise for several years both the league and the city were unable to secure a local buyer for the franchise prior to Hansen's agreement to purchase being announced. A sense of urgency created by the pending sale provided the opportunity for Johnson and Stern, working with Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg to sweeten the deal for everybody involved, offering interested buyers an unprecedented opportunity to accumulate substantial political goodwill and visibility in California's capital in exchange for taking on a money losing proposition with the Kings.
Utilizing a fairly negotiated and fully agreed upon contract as leverage to entice a previously uninterested third party to step up their offer is a classic, but ethically dubious business maneuver known in business circles as "whipsawing". By whipsawing Hansen's offer and leveraging the California state political machine Johnson, Steinberg and the new Sacramento ownership group were not only successful in securing ownership of the franchise but also achieved a major public relations victory for the NBA commissioner.
Unfortunately all of Hansen's hard work and effort were sacrificed in the process, leaving fans in Seattle wondering whether the NBA values them as customers.
"After what happened in this city I wouldn't blame anybody if they said they would never be a fan again." Hawes states. "It seems like people have come back around and time heals all wounds. The optimism here and the fans here are great to see."
Seattle Prep and UW Alumni Spencer Hawes is the same Seattle guy he has always been. Just like he inspired us years ago at that rally he offers
"Absolutely I'm proud of Seattle fans." Says Hawes. "You are disheartened but then you come out to something like this, with people lining up around the building at 10am and you realize that the passion is still here, the fans are still here. The NBA's going to figure it out. It makes too much sense economically."
"I don't have any inside information" he adds, "but I would not be surprised if it is sooner rather than later."