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Geoff Baker on the Pro-Am, NHL expansion, and the Bucks

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Paul Rogers

Geoff Baker posted a new article last night, and there were a lot of tasty nuggets in it.

The article started off talking about Friday night's Seattle Storm/Pro-Am double header. The Storm ultimately fell to the reigning champion Phoenix Mercury by a final score of 94-79. The Storm were undersized and unable to stop the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner. Once the game was over, the Seattle Pro-Am took over. With local NBA stars like Spencer Hawes, Brandon Roy, Detlef Schrempf, and Doug Christie in attendance, players from the NBA, college, and overseas put on a show for the nearly 10,000 in attendance. Jamal Crawford's Team BrandBlack, coached by Sonics stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, officially won the game 117-102, although the final score listed Team BallIsLife, coached by Sonics legends Lenny Wilkens and Slick Watts, winning 120-119. The reason being, at the five minute marker in the fourth quarter, Crawford got on the microphone and announced that they would tie the game at 100 and play a highly competitive end to the game. Marcus Goode, most recently of the NBA D-League's Erie Bayhawks, hit two free throws with 8 seconds left and Crawford's potential game winner rimmed off.

The most surreal part of the night for me was when the crowd began doing a call-and-return chant of "SUPER!" "SONICS!" as Tacoma native and former Washington Husky Isaiah Thomas encouraged them to get louder. I haven't heard that chant in KeyArena in close to a decade and the experience gave me chills. "I think this shows the NBA and everybody around the country how real Seattle basketball is and that people want to come out and see it,’’ said Crawford. "They know the game and appreciate it.’’

Baker then went on to acknowledge the Milwaukee situation, mentioning that a vote could take place as early as midweek that, if passed, would derail the plans for NBA relocation to Seattle for the foreseeable future. The only option for Chris Hansen (who was shown courtside during the first half of the Storm game) at that point, according to Baker, would be to work out an NHL-first amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding between himself and the city of Seattle. Hansen and partner Victor Coleman have been working on such a plan, and Coleman is expected to apply for NHL expansion before the July 20 deadline. According to Baker, the group would need to present a hockey-first funding mechanism for Hansen's Sodo arena project by August 10, assuming the Bucks stay in Milwaukee and don't relocate, as threatened recently by team president Peter Feigin, to either Seattle or Las Vegas.

If the arena deal in Milwaukee fails and the Bucks do move to Seattle, the hockey-first argument would become moot, and $200 million in bonding would be issued for the new arena south of Safeco Field. The team would play in KeyArena while the new arena is constructed. If it fails, Baker notes, the Pro-Am could be the city's only chance to see NBA players in KeyArena ever again.

"It’s terrible for the country, terrible for the city. That’s why we’re going to keep working to get the NBA back here. Any time you can come back and get a crowd like this, it helps," said Hawes, the Charlotte Hornets center who showed up in a bright gold suit, complete with Space Needle tie, and a Sonics hat.

If Milwaukee legislators vote to build the Bucks a new arena and keep the team in Milwaukee, all attention then turns to the NHL, both for Coleman and Ray Bartoszek, who is investing in a new arena in Tukwila and is also expected to apply for an expansion team from the NHL. The hope for either, as well as the mystery Bellevue investors should they ever show themselves, is that they could build an arena for hockey and then be ready should the NBA plan to expand at some time in the future.

Baker concludes by commending Sonics fans for not falling prey to Feigin's threats or engaging in another fanbase war with Wisconsinites. "Fans here largely saw Feigin’s 'move to Seattle' threat as calculated hyperbole designed to sway senate votes. They avoided online trash talk with Bucks supporters about stealing their team."