Sacramento Kings: Is the Seattle Times Selling the New Sonics a Bit Too Hard?

Thomas HolmesCorrespondent IIIFebruary 17, 2012

The biggest story no one is talking about in the NBA will not go away this season, or next or the year after.

It seems that four years after the Seattle Supersonics were "moved" to Oklahoma City, efforts are being made to bring the NBA back with the help of a Bay Area hedge fund manager with Seattle roots.

For the time being, the Sacramento Kings appear to be the prime candidate to become, in effect, the Sonics 2.0.  While efforts to keep the Kings continue, it would seem that Seattle is looking to push the initiative of getting an NBA team regardless of the Kings fate.

Sadly, most of America will turn a deaf ear on this story and figure, "It will never happen here," especially in markets like New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, but in essence, it's not that simple in a handful of other markets throughout the league.

While I fully understand that teams move and  the NBA is after all a business, I'm still opposed to this effort and believe it has the potential to open a Pandora's box league-wide.

Yet that doesn't seem to be stopping anyone in Seattle, especially at the Seattle Times.

With each passing day, The Times has stepped up the campaign of a thinly veiled sales pitch to the people of Seattle by enlisting two of their best sports writers, Steve Kelley and Jerry Brewer, to drum up support prior to Thursday's unveiling of a $490 million arena plan to be built adjacent to Safeco Field.

Personally, I'm feeling equal parts offended, disappointed and a little duped.  I've been reading Kelley and Brewer for years now and have more often than not found their views on point across a variety of topics, however, these sentiments ring false and when pieced together paint a disturbing picture. 

David Stern" target="_blank">It's time for Seattle to forgive David Stern.

Why we shouldn't feel guilty about stealing another city's team.

Old-school Sonics fan delivers optimistic but realistic message.

Chris Hansen steps out of the shadows, now the real game begins.

To summarize, these articles are telling the people of Seattle, “Don’t feel guilty about stealing the Kings, please refrain from causing any trouble while the adults get this fixed and most importantly, forgive David Stern because he’s a very important man.”

While I understand that there is little to occupy their time between the end of Seahawks season and the beginning of spring training for the Mariners, this seems like a lot of effort for something still in the very early stages of development. 

In an election year, we are often exposed to a litany of messages that we need to decipher who or what is right or wrong, true or false and while at times it can prove challenging, more often than not, we are savvy enough to know when someone crosses a line.

Is this all part of a litmus test to gauge whether the NBA can garner enough support and goodwill to return to Seattle?  If so, who is backing this initiative?

It would almost seem as if it’s all part of a step by step plan to move the city in the right direction.

1. Provide the people hope.

2. Remind them that forgiveness is divine.

3. Calm their fears and guilt.

4. Sell them a humble savior.

And finally...

5. Give them an arena plan to drool over.

The same behavior that just a few years earlier was considered reprehensible is now being repackaged as part of the plan needed to get a team. 

Jerry Brewer explains, "Seattle didn't invent the rules. In fact, Seattle suffered from playing by these rules. I once wrote that I have no ill feelings toward the people of Oklahoma City — save the anger for the people actually involved in the 'heist.' They did what they needed to bring the NBA there. Just the same, other cities shouldn't be angry with Seattle because there's a buzz about taking their team."

He concludes, "So, why bother? Well, as I said before, there are plenty of benefits. Let's face it: We live in a sports-crazed society. If a city wants to be big time, it has to have 'em in our culture. It's like a party at a popular nightclub. They're asking a ridiculous cover charge, so why pay it? Because we really want into that party.

It's not right. It's not fair. It's not logical. It just is.

I want the NBA back soon, with the NHL on the side. By any means necessary. Who's with me?

And as we play this game again, instead of feeling guilty, we should spend more energy watching our backs."

Brewer's claim that "it just is," is just wrong.

Whatever happened to dignity and human decency? 

If someone steals your umbrella, your coat or your car you should steal someone else's?  At what point would Brewer consider drawing a line here?

But according to Brewer's colleague Steve Kelley, we should offer forgiveness to those who wrongly take things from us and move on. 

Kelley explains, "We can stay angry with Stern. We can bluster and say things like, 'I'll never go to another game as long as Stern is the commissioner,' but that would be foolish and shortsighted.

Once the dust settles; once all of the land around Sodo has been secured and all of the political hurdles to build the arena are cleared; once the plans for an arena have been completed, Seattle will need Stern's support. That's how the game is played."

Similar to Brewer, we're in effect being told, "The world is an imperfect place, sometimes you have to appease people and grease the wheels to get things done." 

Kelley concludes, "So let's forgive David Stern, because we have no other choice."

Translation: Your feelings are petty, submit to the tyranny of David Stern or otherwise you will lose. 

Meanwhile, the one question Kelley truly fails to provide any explanation for is, "How can you forgive someone who never said they are sorry and still truly believes they're right?

Kelley instead chooses to bang the drum harder as we march forward to Thursday when we are treated to an exclusive interview with the man behind the curtain...Chris Hansen.

Kelley paints Hansen as, "a multimillionaire Everyman. He grew up in Rainier Valley near Franklin High School and, like many Seattle kids, he took his game to the playgrounds and mimicked all of the stars from the various Sonic teams.

He was Dennis Johnson, Ricky Pierce and Payton. He dreamed of dunking like Shawn Kemp, but like many gym rats he wasn't big enough or good enough.

How can you not like Hansen? He is urban cool, well-spoken, relaxed and unassuming. But more important than liking the messenger is liking his message, and Hansen's message is both optimistic and realistic."

That's all well and good, but what comes next is what truly gave me reason to pause as Kelley and Hansen inform us how things are going to unfold...

"This is a job for grown-ups. It's a job for people who understand the business world and have the savvy to navigate through city and county councils.

Hansen is a grown-up. He understands the time has come for the chorus of whiners to fall mute. The people who seem to want a full apology from NBA commissioner David Stern seemingly more than they want another NBA franchise are wrong.

A deal won't get done without the help of Stern and the ironic chair of the NBA's Relocation Committee, Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett. It's that simple, and it's a key component of Hansen's message.

'One important message just for the city is, it's time to really let go of that,' Hansen said. 'As we try to put our best foot forward, and bring back professional basketball and hopefully professional hockey to this city, I think we have to realize the mistakes we made and stop blaming other people.'

Hansen said all of the right things, and he said them with conviction. This wasn't some slick deal maker offering promises he couldn't keep and making demands that weren't real."

To summarize, we find out that Chris Hansen is just like you and me.  Rest assured he’s no slicker looking to make fools of us.  No…he’s a Sonics fan through and through with a can do attitude who will deliver upon his promises if we can simply let go of the past, focus on a brighter future and get out of the way. 

At this point, I picture Kelley telling us all of this with an air of condescension while clutching a pipe in one hand and patting us on the head with the other, “Run along now children, nothing to see here while this smoke-filled backroom deal gets done. You’re too little to understand how the real world works.”

Brewer in his attempt to describe Hansen also sends a mixed message.

"Is it possible for a person to have the teeth of a shark and the heart of a boy who grew up pretending he was Gus Williams on the basketball court? If so, Hansen just might be the man who can bring back the Sonics.

'I don't mind the criticism that will come, just like I'm pretty apathetic about accolades,' Hansen said.

It's easy to consider Hansen too good to be true. That can be determined later. Right now, it's most important that he proves too good to be defeated.

It's real now. He's real. Let Project Impossible begin."

Is Hansen a shark? Brewer sure seems willing to take the risk in finding out, but should why should we be excited too?

Finally, on Thursday afternoon all of this love and attention built to a crescendo with the announcement that the city is proposing to build a $490 million dollar arena.  

Naturally, Kelley could hardly contain himself, "This was a day to celebrate. As I see it, a new arena is going to get built in Sodo. New teams are coming to town. The Sonics are returning and the NHL is on the horizon."

Kelley continues, "This proposal by Hansen and others is smart, creative and full of public protections. There are practically no risks to the city or county. In this economic and political climate, it is the only kind of deal that can work.

Hansen's group is proposing to spend $290 million, and the public funds would be capped at $200 million.

Read my lips, there will be no new taxes. The $200 million would come from rent payments on the new building and other revenue streams that wouldn't exist if an arena didn't exist.

It would be publicly painless."

Translation...dirty deeds, done dirt cheap with no risk to you all thanks to someone who was mysteriously absent from the event on Thursday.

I'm sure Hansen had his reasons, but if you were about to be linked to a major deal like this, wouldn't it make sense to make an appearance?

At this rate, The Seattle Times is setting themselves up for a potentially huge disappointment if Hansen fails to come through.  Which leads me to wonder why is the Times, especially Kelley, willing to bank so heavily on Hansen and how can anyone be so certain this is all going to work?

The Sacramento Kings have at least until March 1 to provide a viable plan to the NBA. 

In essence what's going on here is nothing short of ghoulish as people who claim to be acting in the best interest of their community are trying to steal the still beating heart of another city's franchise.

Wasn't this what Clay Bennett did to Seattle?

Only now that the tide potentially benefits Seattle, this kind of behavior is deemed acceptable?

Veteran NBA analyst David Aldridge at perhaps put it best...

"I hate this.

People that I like are going to be hurt, one way or another: either good fans in what has been a great NBA town, Sacramento, or fans in Seattle whose team was ripped from their hearts, and now seek to do the same to someone else."

I hate it too.  Add all of this up and it's just not right as someone has to lose now based on the events of the past week. 

To the fans of Seattle who are excited at the prospect of getting a team, understand that you are not getting the Sonics back, but you might be stealing the Kings.

At the very least, can't we leave Sacramento alone until a decision is made final?

We are all being played as fools being pitted against each other in a twisted game, being manipulated by people we once trusted only to now be led astray down a slippery slope.

What is the price of dignity?  And how much is the city of Seattle willing to sell it for? 

Sadly, in the coming weeks and months I think we're about to find out...


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