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Seattle NBA goal takes big step forward; McMillan thinks NBA will “put a team there soon”

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With an arena deal in hand and an NHL club on the horizon, it’s “legitimate” to consider a Sonics return now.

We are closer to a return of the NBA in Seattle than we’ve been since January 2013, says the Seattle Times. Perhaps even closer than we’ve ever been.

Times sports columnist Larry Stone reflected on Tuesday’s successful presentation to the NHL executive committee, which unanimously recommended to the full board of governors to approve Seattle’s application for expansion. A final presentation will be made to the full BOG for a vote on December 3rd.

Stone assumes the NHL is a done deal; a sentiment shared by pretty much everyone. He allows for the possibility something could change, but given the language used by the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman, this all feels like finalizing a process and chilling the champagne.

With an arena deal in hand and an NHL club on the horizon, Stone offers that it’s “legitimate” to consider a Sonics return now.

“I think it’s great.” former Sonic star and coach Nate McMillan told Sonics Rising when asked about the new arena in a separate interview, “Seattle is a great basketball town and there is a lot of tradition there. It’s one of the few cities that has an NBA championship and was a shame when the team left for Oklahoma City.”

Oak View Group, the private arena investors and partners with the NHL Seattle effort, continue to deliver on what they’ve laid out and on their proposed timeline, Stone says. And their “vast connections” in the sports world can’t be ignored.

”[Investor Chris] Hansen has long been the clear choice of NBA fans as the best hope for bringing a team back. He’s certainly shown single-minded passion for that outcome. But the stark reality is that OVG, with a new arena on the way, appears well-positioned to do that.”

Come December 4th, the one-year anniversary of the arena memorandum of understanding between the city and OVG, Seattle will likely be celebrating its NHL expansion award. Links to nearly every member on the NHL’s executive committee helped to closed the deal.

OVG has just as strong connections with the NBA.

As just one example, on this week’s edition of Sports Radio KJR’s Tuesdays with Tod, Seattle Hockey Partners president Tod Leiweke was asked about the “NBA presence” in the NHL room. Tod pointed to Toronto Maple Leafs owner Larry Tanenbaum. He’s also owner of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and current chairman of the NBA’s board of governors.

Tim Leiweke, Tod’s brother and Oak View’s CEO, worked for Tanenbaum in Toronto as the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Though they had a falling out and parting of ways back then, Tanenbaum was one of the first to sign on to Tim’s Arena Alliance service through OVG.

There is still a lot of uncertainty around the NBA regarding expansion or relocation, to be sure. But given Seattle’s growing status as a “bellwether” city on the national and world stage -- as Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan told the NHL yesterday -- its booming economy, and now a new arena and what appears to be a new major league hockey club, the goal of the Sonics has taken a big step forward.

”There should be a team there (Seattle),” McMillan says, “and I think the NBA is going to put a team there soon.”