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Reporter: Stern seems genuine about NBA in Seattle

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By Michael Simeona

If you were to make a list of the most hated people in the history of Seattle sports, it would be hard not to include NBA commissioner David Stern. The image of Stern sitting in front of the Washington state legislature demanding a new NBA arena is one that continues to rile fans of the team that gave the city its last major sports title.

But for the first time since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City nearly four years ago, it appears that Stern is open to having a team return to the Emerald City.

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NBA commissioner David Stern said Seattle is back on the NBA’s radar. (AP)

“Everyone says to us, ‘Well, would you consider going back?’ Of course, if they have a building,” Stern said during an interview with Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday.

Smith, a beat reporter covering the Utah Jazz, told “The Kevin Calabro Show” on 710 ESPN Seattle that Stern seemed genuine with his comments.

“I was impressed by the tone of his voice and the honesty, and exactly what he said,” Smith said.

While the Thunder has been a huge success, playing front of sell-out crowds in Oklahoma City, the void the team left in Seattle has been a black mark on Stern’s legacy as commissioner.

“To the best of my knowledge … Stern, ever since Oklahoma City kind of stole the Sonics, has really seemed to distance himself from that situation, the city. Always diplomatic but at times very negative,” Smith explained. “[But] he sounded interested, he sounded like the door was open.”

Stern’s optimism is preceeded by recent developments regarding a new arena plan being discussed with Seattle city leaders. Christopher Hansen, a wealthy hedge-fund manager with Seattle roots, has purchased multiple properties south of the Safeco Field parking garage and intends to build a facility that could house both an NBA and NHL franchise.

In an exclusive interview with the “Kevin Calabro Show,” Seattle mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday that city leaders are taking Hansen’s proposal seriously.

“Both sides are taking it very seriously and that’s different than what we’ve seen over the past few years,” McGinn said.

Most of the funding for a new arena will have to come from the private sector given the city’s reluctance to foot the bill during such a dire economic climate.

“Clearly there is a lot of excitement,” McGinn said, “but we also recognize that we’re in a tough budget time, and there are folks who have expressed skepticism as well.”

Nonetheless, the excitement generated from the most recent developments have the nation talking, and the commissioner has been listening.

“Basically it sounds like if Seattle and [Hansen] can find funding for a new arena and find funding for an NBA team,” Smith said, “the NBA — for the first time, Stern basically said — is open to returning to Seattle.”

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