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David Stern's Retirement Equates to Mixed Messages for Seattle Sonics Fans

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25:  Adam Silver (L), Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, speaks to the media following the NBA Board of Governors Meeting, during which Commissioner David Stern (R) outlined his plans to step down in February 2014 and nominate Silver as his successor, at the St. Regis hotel on October 25, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
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Thomas HolmesCorrespondent IIIOctober 30, 2012

Late last week, news came that NBA commissioner David Stern would be stepping down from his post after exactly 30 years on the job on February 1, 2014.

Now, before you mark your calendars and stick an extra pin in your Stern voodoo doll, it seems that just maybe the old man has had a change of heart when discussing the city of Seattle in context to professional basketball.

According to Yahoo!Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, league sources have offered up the following:

Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said. He has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's group to bring back the NBA there. Ballmer's group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle.

From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing, sources said – just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett's deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.

Meanwhile when asked about Seattle's chances last week, Stern really didn't sound like a man determined to get the city a franchise based on what seattlepi.com's Nick Eaton posted the day before Wojnarowski:

“I don’t have any current view on where such a team comes from,” Stern said at a news conference Thursday, according to the ESPN-affiliated Sacramento Kings blog Cowbell Kingdom. “We deal with a lot of cities. Seattle happens to be another great city.

“We’ve dealt with everything from Kansas City to Virginia Beach to Pittsburgh, Columbus, Louisville — all cities of the certain type who would very much like to be considered for an NBA franchise. Anaheim, Vancouver, Las Vegas. So Seattle is very much in the mix.”

Who should we believe, the emperor or his minions?

What's sad is that as fans we're left having to decipher some form of truth through all of the hearsay and conjecture we've been fed in morsels over the past year or so. 

What surprised me is that the Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer actually offered up a rather even-handed response to the recent whispers with his piece published on Monday:

Can you trust that Stern is sincere in his unstated desire to restore Seattle's Sonics tradition? Of course not. But you can nod his way and look on with skepticism as he attempts to finish his 30-year run in dramatic fashion. The next 15 months will mean much to Seattle's chances of resurrecting the Sonics.

This is a refreshing change from the usual rhetoric the Seattle Times has published on the potential Sonics revival the past year in that it actually boils down the situation to the hard truth.

The next 15 months are critical, but we should remain skeptical.  

Any scenario that involves David Stern, the Maloof brothers and Clay Bennett as head of the relocation committee should give Seattle fans pause. And that's assuming Chris Hansen can continue to make magic happen in getting an arena built in Sodo.

The other thing to consider is that, beyond what Wojnarowski heard, there hasn't been anyone else to step forward and report something similar in regards to Seattle, but with so many sources referencing it, it just seems likely.

Perhaps it will help the situation, but at the same time, just because a lot of people say the same thing doesn't necessarily make it true.  

Time will tell, but I have a feeling that fans in both Seattle and Sacramento are going to find themselves at the mercy of Stern until the bitter end.  

After all, as one of Adrian Wojnarowski's sources said, "Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he'll let Silver deal with the crowd [booing] on opening night."

Wouldn't that, in a way, be fitting?

Once again, I'm not sure how to interpret that, given the satisfaction it would give Seattle fans to have one final chance to "serenade" Stern as he stands at mid-court to soak it all in. 

At the same time, I'd imagine he'd rather enjoy it knowing deep down that he won this final chess match by moving all of the pawns according to his every whim while wiping the slate clean of arguably his biggest mistake; thus proving his complete and undeniable mastery of the game. 

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