Former Sonic Gary Payton talks Matisse Thybulle, Final Four, and future of NBA in Seattle

Apr 6, 2019, 9:37 AM | Updated: 9:49 am

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Sonics legend Gary Payton joined "Bob, Groz and Tom" to talk about the NHL to Seattle. (AP)


How much blame can fans put on Clay Bennett for the Seattle Sonics’ relocation to Oklahoma City? According to NBA Hall of Famer and former Sonics great Gary Payton, it’s not nearly as much as they should place on Starbucks CEO and former team owner Howard Schultz.

O’Neil: A farewell to Schultz, the man who sold out the Sonics

“They’re mad at Bennett and all of them, which they should be (mad), but I don’t think you should be mad at Bennett (in particular),” Payton said. “Because what he did was he came in from Oklahoma and he did what he needed; he wanted his city that he’s in to have a team. We can’t be mad at him. We should be mad at Schultz. That’s who we should be mad at. Who tried to run a basketball team like a coffee business. That’s not good business. So that’s what the problem was right there.

“And these fans deserve to have their team back. We were there for 40 years, plus. And all the sudden we get our team taken away from us… I think if we get a team back, we’re going to be sold out every year again. But we’re going in the right direction right now that we’re getting a hockey team and we’re building up KeyArena, and that’s going to take it over the top for us.”

Payton joined Bob, Groz and Tom on 710 ESPN Seattle Thursday to talk about the NHL’s decision to expand to Seattle, the future of the NBA in Seattle, watching Washington’s Matisse Thybulle inch closer to his own NCAA record, and a pretty entertaining competition that will be hosted ahead of this weekend’s Final Four match-ups (yes, there is a trash-talking category).

“(Bringing the NHL to Seattle) is right move to make,” Payton said. “We have to bring something to the table with the NBA. We have to bring a new arena, we have to compete with the Staples Centers and all these new arenas coming out. That’s what Vegas is doing right now; they’re trying to compete, they’re bringing football there, they’re bringing hockey there, and then they’re bringing the WNBA there. We’ve got all of that already, and now we have a hockey team. So now all we’ve got to do is get our basketball team back.

“I know (NBA commissioner Adam Silver) does not want to take teams away from cities. That is a big problem with us. I think he wants to try to go to expansion. But Seattle is a prime city to get the (team) back because we’ve got fans who are big for that… we’ve just got to keep pushing for it and I know it’s going to come, and I’m not going to stop until we get a basketball team back.”

Listen to Payton’s entire interview in the audio clip embedded above, or on Bob, Groz and Tom’s podcast page.

You can listen to Bob, Groz and Tom every weekday from noon to 3 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle. 

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Former Sonic Gary Payton talks Matisse Thybulle, Final Four, and future of NBA in Seattle