In a recent question and answer session on the site BasketballInsiders.com, reporter Steve Kyler further proved that he, as well as other members of the national media, still do not understand the reason for the Sonics' departure. Kyler was asked by a reader named Tim;
Hi Steve, i really want to see seattle bringing a nba team back, could you tell me when that might happen? in 5 or 10 years? thanks
A seemingly reasonable question. In fact, one that we've asked here on Sonics Rising. Kyler was less optimistic than we are here, and used the opportunity to not only attempt to dash any hopes for a team in the future, but also to bash the Seattle fan base.
I have a very unpopular view of the Seattle situation. So don't hate me too much for this... You had a franchise and gave it up, now you want someone else's franchise?
Here is how the NBA views expansion - and this is after learning lessons from previous expansion - The amount of cash new teams put in, is often a fraction of what they take out. There is only so much elite talent to go around, and while adding more media markets helps, for the most part expansion isn't good for basketball.
Most of the expansion teams from the last go around are barely making money, or have just recently turned the corner because of revenue sharing. It takes a lot of time to really sell and create the revenue channels necessary to be a contributor to the NBA pie, not just a consumer of it.
That said. I think expansion gets a long hard look after the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, but given how the league has viewed this topic - I am not sold that expansion, especially domestic expansion is going to happen. And the likelihood of a team relocating in the near term (next ten years) seems unlikely.
So to answer the question directly - I am not sure Seattle is getting a team in the next ten years, and they have no one to blame but themselves. The lesson learned is that if you won't build your team a new building, someone else will.
While Seattle has a long and rich tradition in Basketball, they gave it up. Now the question of whether it was dirty pool on the part of Clay Bennett isn't my comment - had Seattle done what Sacramento did and said "no one is taking our team" and agreed to build a new building, the team would still be in Seattle. Now you have to wait in line like everyone else who wants a team and that's unfortunate, but that's on the city and state for playing hard ball, when they should fought to keep the team as aggressively as they are trying to land one now.
This won't be a very popular statement, but that's how I see the Seattle situation.
Kyler then went on to engage in a twitter war with anyone who questioned him.
@SteveKylerNBA: @sonicsman: --> Instead of being touchy and sensitive about it - maybe you should enbrace that you[fans] had a role in losing the team
What role is that, exactly, Mr. Kyler? He went on from there to suggest that we had attendance issues, starting back as far as 1999. Let's take a look at the numbers from that time period, in terms of capacity. Keep in mind that KeyArena can hold 17,000 for basketball. It would be the smallest arena in the NBA today.
Now, certainly 91% of the smallest arena in the NBA is less than 91% of a larger one. But the fact that remains that "attendance issues" would seemingly have to be much less than a nearly full arena. And, perhaps, the remaining 9% could have been made up if there weren't deficiencies with KeyArena, which is what started the whole problem in the first place.
Reporters like Kyler likely look only at raw numbers. However, even the raw numbers don't prove Kyler's point. Without looking at arena size, the Sonics were no lower than 21st in the league during the time period Kyler suggested. Meaning there were no less than nine teams with lower attendance numbers than the Sonics during that period, all of whom would have had larger arenas.
What else could our role have been? Not building the arena? I certainly don't remember having a say in the matter. David Stern, and many reporters still to this day, like to point at I-91 as the reason that an arena couldn't be built and why the team left. However, anyone who has read it knows that I-91 is a flimsy, poorly-written initiative and, as Chris Hansen has recently shown, can easily be worked around with minimal effort. Minimal effort was too much for Clay Bennett to put out, however.
We won't go any further into the underhandedness of the entire Bennett tenure. Everyone here knows that story all too well and anyone who doesn't can go watch Sonicsgate and get the story. We will simply close by saying that reporters such as Kyler, and any others who don't fully understand the situation, would be best off simply keeping their mouths shut about it. There is one line in Kyler's response that definitely rings true:
if you won't build your team a new building, someone else will.
However, this was well out of our hands before it could get to that point. Our government fought with Howard Schultz on his arena proposals long enough to force him to sell the team. Schultz was short-sighted enough to sell to out-of-towners who had already professed a desire to own a team in their own city. Bennett never gave a concerted effort to actually get wheels on the ground. And the NBA was complicit in all of it, never allowing us the extensions like those that they recently offered the Sacramento Kings. While there are certainly plenty of directions to point the fingers in this saga, I see no scenario where the fans are the villains... only the victims.