O’Neil: A Seattle NBA team needs to be acquired, not poached from Memphis
I want an NBA team in Seattle.
I just don’t want to wait around and wonder if another city is going to lose its franchise, and I say this because I found myself getting excited after reading the Grizzlies might have the power to opt out of their arena lease in Memphis because of average paid attendance this season, something Geoff Calkins reported for The Daily Memphian.
First, I raised my eyebrows. Then I started to get my hopes up. The Grizzlies are in the smallest market in the league and over the past 20 years, the franchise has had an unusually large amount of ownership unrest even by NBA standards.
But the moment I got around to thinking about the Grizzlies’ promising young guard Ja Morant and that shiny new arena that’s being built beneath the shadow of the Space Needle, I stopped myself: I don’t want to be that guy coveting someone who’s still in another relationship. No one likes that guy. The one trying to present himself as the ready-made upgrade with the new car, the sports jacket and who just – oops – “accidentally” dropped his black AmEx card there at the bar.
There’s a difference between acquiring a franchise and poaching one, and while I will happily hope for Seattle to wind up with that franchise should it leave Memphis, I just don’t want to be batting my eyes and crossing my fingers to see if things fall apart for the fine people of Tennessee.
I know, I know. That’s what happened to us, and it stunk. It still stings in fact, but I also remember Chris Hansen’s attempt to buy the Kings in 2013, and what that turned us into here in Seattle. We became more than covetous. We were poachers, and we got mad when commissioner David Stern wouldn’t let Chris Hansen drop Steve Ballmer’s wallet on top of the city of Sacramento so we could make off with its team.
The NBA did the right thing in Sacramento by doing precisely what it failed to do here in Seattle. But just because we took the business end of the stick doesn’t mean that we should go shove that same stick into another city’s back.
I do think Seattle will get an opportunity at securing an NBA franchise in the near future, perhaps with the economic crisis making the 30 NBA owners more amenable to expansion and the 10-digit fee that would likely entail. It’s also possible that the fallout is going to impact the viability of one or more of the existing franchises in their current market.
That doesn’t mean I have to scour for the first sign of that financial failure and start circling like a vulture waiting for the carnage to stop. Besides, that process is going to take a while. The Grizzlies’ paid attendance gives them an exit clause from their lease, but they’re going to use that as leverage to try and extract concessions from the city. Calkins also reported that there’s a $29 million surplus that the city has from the bonds used to build the arena so maybe this is a non-starter, and already I’m violating my own rule and trying to figure out what’s going to happen.
I simply don’t want to follow each quarter-turn of the screw in the protracted discussions that precede any franchise’s exit from a city. Let me know if the Grizzlies are going to leave Memphis, then I’ll start wondering about Seattle’s chances of landing that franchise.
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