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A Seattle SuperSonics and Storm fan's thoughts on the possible return of NBA basketball to the city (Part 2 of 2)

Patrick Sheehy was a Seattle SuperSonics season ticket holder from 2000 until 2008 when they relocated to Oklahoma City. He was a named plaintiff in a season ticket holder lawsuit against team owner Clay Bennett for allegedly breaching contract terms regarding season ticket renewals with his fellow season ticket holders and was able to get into a settlement with Bennett's ownership group. Now, it looks like the NBA may be coming back to the Emerald City, but at the expense of the fans of the Sacramento Kings and the city their team currently plays in.

The Storm WNBA team is Seattle's only professional basketball team right now.  But do Storm chairman Dawn Trudeau (L), CEO Karen Bryant (R), and franchise guard Sue Bird (C) all stand to lose more than to gain if a new NBA team comes back to town?
The Storm WNBA team is Seattle's only professional basketball team right now. But do Storm chairman Dawn Trudeau (L), CEO Karen Bryant (R), and franchise guard Sue Bird (C) all stand to lose more than to gain if a new NBA team comes back to town?

If you missed Part 1 of the Q&A, please click here to read it.

In this second part, Patrick talks more about the possibility of the return of a Seattle NBA team this fall. Topics include the possibility of NBA team expansion so both Sacramento and Seattle can have an NBA team, whether he would consider being a Sonics season ticket holder again, and he also touches on a topic that many other media outlets have talked about in passing at best, if not mentioning it all: how could this affect the Seattle Storm WNBA team, for better or for worse?

Swish Appeal: Sactown Royalty’s Tom Ziller wrote an article advocating that the Kings should remain in Sacramento but that Seattle should be awarded an expansion team and rebuts a number of reasons why some NBA fans are not in favor of it. Are you in favor of NBA team expansion so that both Seattle and Sacramento, presumably under new ownership, could have an NBA team to root for even if that means waiting an additional season or two for a new NBA team in Seattle?

Patrick Sheehy: Tom is 100% right. I said the same thing during the battle to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Oklahoma City DESERVED a team. Their fans, their city, even the ownership who I was so furious with had done absolutely everything imaginable to earn the right for an NBA team. I wanted the league to give them an expansion team. [One thing Oklahoma City did to make the city a possible home for an NBA team at the time was hosting the New Orleans Hornets during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 NBA seasons due to Hurricane Katrina].

The same is true right now with the Kings. The best possible scenario and the only one that I feel is truly fair and honorable is for the NBA to pick a date in the next 2-3 years for Seattle to be given an expansion team, allow local ownership in Sacramento to purchase the team and solve the arena issues locally. Some Seattle fans might balk at the wait, but frankly, we have survived this long without one…we can wait a few more years if we know for a fact we get a team at a clearly defined date.

Unfortunately I don’t see the NBA going that route. An NBA franchise in Sacramento is simply not going to be successful for the $525M premium that the Seattle ownership has applied to the Kings. Apparently the Seattle group thinks they can make the team worth that price in the Seattle market. I don’t think anyone thinks they can do that in Sacramento. Raising the valuation of an NBA team this far is not something the ownership committee is going to walk away from.

The Kings have NBA star quality players in DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans…no expansion team will get that, so Seattle would get an expansion team for far less than they have offered for the Kings. Local Kings’ owners would likely buy the team for less than $525M in order to make it a successful franchise in Sacramento with a future of making a profit. Faced with increasing the valuation of their assets or diluting the value through expansion…I don’t see the NBA headed in this direction unless it makes major changes to its business model.

SA: Adam Brown and Jason Reid, the creators of the acclaimed web documentary Sonicsgate wrote a lengthy article on Grantland regarding the possible relocation of the Kings. One part that kind of struck us was this paragraph in regards to remembering team history:

If the Kings do become the new SuperSonics in Seattle, we will love and support the team as our own while respectfully remembering its Sacramento roots. The new Sonics will be able to retire Gary Payton’s jersey in the rafters as he goes to the Hall of Fame, but we would not forget where this team came from and the pain and discord it must have caused back in Sacramento. We will always support the NBA’s return to Sacramento.

If the Kings are ultimately relocated to Seattle, what do you think is the best way to remember the Kings’ roots? At least in Oklahoma City, while the Thunder does not raise a championship banner for 1979 or wear green and gold throwback jerseys, the team still at least legally recognizes SuperSonics records and history.

PS: The city of Seattle shares the history of the Sonics with the Thunder. Clay Bennett has a five year old team with a Western Conference Championship of its own. It is led by future Hall of Fame players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who figure to be permanent fixtures for that franchise. The Thunder should surrender the shared history to Seattle and Seattle should surrender the Kings' history to Sacramento when they return, if the Kings are relocated to Seattle that is.

I think that if this can happen there are a ton of things that Seattle could do to honor the Kings’ legacy in the interim. They could offer exhibition games in Sleep Train Arena, and they could publicly refer to players past performances as their performance while they were Sacramento Kings. The Sacramento/Kansas City/Omaha/Cincinnati/Rochester NBA franchise will always be tied around figures like coach Rick Adelman and players like Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Jason Williams, Brad Miller, Peja Stojakovic, Nate Archibald and Oscar Robertson. The Kings should keep their history intact.

SA: Seattle Storm President and CEO Karen Bryant wrote an open letter to the team's season ticket holders and fans last season that ownership fully supports an NBA team whenever one does come to Seattle. Obviously, Storm fans and Sonics fans aren't mutually exclusive groups, meaning there are a good number of Storm fans who are Sonics fans too like yourself. But how do Storm season ticket holders and fans who don't feel so attached to the Sonics feel about their possible return?

PS: It is a mixed bag to be honest. Some are entirely ambivalent, some just hate the NBA and don’t want any ties whatsoever and some are fine either way as long as they are completely separate entities.

I think there is a large core of Storm fans who are worried about the impacts. These folks worry about the NBA being the annoying "Big Brother," taking up media attention and KeyArena dates during overlap periods. They worry about the NBA team needing upgrades to KeyArena for its two season stint that bumps the Storm out to another arena (we feel your pain New York Liberty fans*) while it is beefed up for the interim NBA quality solution. They worry about loss of potential sponsorships as basketball friendly companies seek a larger fan base with larger discretionary incomes.

I truly have faith in Force 10 Hoops [the Storm ownership group's official name] and Karen Bryant. These women each have been shining examples of success and leadership and embraced their role model status in the community. They all have a demonstrated passion and commitment to improving the status and quality of women’s basketball in Seattle.

If the Storm leadership is behind the movement to bring the NBA back, then I believe that they will make sure that they have a solid relationship with Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer and that the relationship is mutually beneficial bringing value to our entire Seattle basketball community.

[*The New York Liberty was moved to Prudential Center in Newark, NJ during Madison Square Garden's renovation for the 2011-2013 WNBA seasons. While the Prudential Center is definitely a modern arena which hosts the New Jersey Devils NHL team and also was a stopgap home for the now Brooklyn Nets, this temporary move did hurt attendance for the Liberty when they moved.]

SA: Would you like to see the Seattle Storm move to the new arena in SoDo if and when one is built?

PS: I love the KeyArena's location (it is very close to my home) and the intimate atmosphere it creates. I would be open to any new arena that improves the situation for the Storm. A location on Queen Anne [where KeyArena is] or in SoDo won’t change my position on my Storm season tickets.

SA: What potential positives and negatives could you see the Storm face whenever an NBA team returns?

PS: On the potential positive front there are a lot of co-marketing opportunities that could arise…companies may be more likely to advertise and sponsor year round basketball with the expanded NBA market reach. The NBA budget will create significantly improved practice and training facilities and a top tier technology and game experience environment that the Storm cannot afford on its own.

On the potential negative front, the Storm would be subject to second tier status for scheduling of all types. Sponsors and advertisers could jump ship to focus on the larger reach of the NBA audience. Media attention could shift focus so much on the NBA that coverage of the Storm could drop locally and nationally. I am the optimist though and I believe that the leaders of these two organizations are the type that will make the benefits far outweigh the risks and the NBA’s return will be great for the Storm.

SA: Lastly, if and when the NBA returns to Seattle, would you put a deposit down for season tickets? Also, do you think there should be a method to allow those who were Sonics season ticket holders before the Oklahoma City relocation to have first priority to put a deposit down whenever that day comes?

PS: I intend to place my deposit for season tickets once the option is available. I will do that to support what Mr. Hansen and Mr. Ballmer have done, and continue as a season ticket holder at least while they are at KeyArena.

The SoDo site is much less convenient for me and given that I hope to still be coaching, I will have a lot of conflicts with game timeslots. I will likely move to a ticket package or combination of packages once the new arena launches, but that said, I would not be surprised to find myself addicted and compelled to remain a season ticket holder indefinitely.

I think a priority or "pre-sale" offer to former season ticket holders would be great, but without the cooperation of the Thunder it will be difficult to recognize the old season ticket holder priority system.

We here at Swish Appeal would like to give a big thanks to Patrick for giving his time and providing his thoughts to us.

For more information, detailed analysis and developments on the Sacramento Kings' relocation situation along with the team's fans and the city fighting to keep their team, please visit Sactown Royalty's StoryStream. In addition, SB Nation NBA also has an additional StoryStream on this topic.