If you have a moment, check out this fine SI.com piece, written by Chris Ballard. In the article, Ballard discusses the current state of professional baskeball in Seattle and the possible return of the SuperSonics.
In a word, progress is slow.
There are multiple theories on this situation, many of which center on how the city of Seattle has not been treated well by the NBA. While the fans in the Emerald City may feel like the league has a grudge against them (David Stern might have), the Association is in the business of making money.
Capitalism tends to trump personal agendas.
Now, why did the Kings stay in Sacramento? Why are the Bucks staying in Milwaukee? Why are the Atlanta Hawks not going anywhere?
Simple. The NBA wants franchises to stay where they are. It is better for stability, loyal fan bases and new arenas. Especially the new arenas.
The NBA used Chris Hansen to blackmail the city of Sacramento. As long as there is a motivated, potential owner out there in a new geographic area, the league can hold the current city hostage until they cough up public funds for a shiny, new arena.
So, why did the Sonics get moved to Oklahoma City and become the team-that-shall-not-be-named? Also simple. The city of Seattle called the NBA’s bluff and balked on funding a new arena with public money. So, the NBA called Seattle’s bluff.
Fans will ask the obvious question about expansion, and wonder why the league doesn’t add new teams in Seattle, Las Vegas and possibly Louisville. While this may seem like a simple solution, leagues like the NBA have to worry about diluting the product.
Cable networks don’t want the game of the week to feature franchises that barely resemble professional talent. The “one and done” debaucle in college basketball has already turned the NBA draft into a process that is increasingly similar to Major League Baseball. Young players coming out of college after one year are less likely to make an impact until several seasons into their careers, assuming they last that long.
Perhaps a new TV deal will allow for expansion, but it is highly unlikely that the NBA is going to allow for relocation at this point unless a city truly shows itself to be unworthy. Therefore, fans in Seattle should not get excited when there is turmoil in another city.
Stay positive, SuperSonics fans. Maybe the team will return someday. Maybe.