NEW YORK -- David Stern gave another warning that the
SuperSonics could eventually leave Seattle, saying Thursday that
the city is, "not interested in having the NBA there."
The NBA commissioner also touched on the situations regarding
the Trail Blazers and Hornets during a conference call, but his
strongest words were saved for the Sonics' future in Seattle.
Stern has said the Sonics' lease with the city is the worst in
the NBA, and he went to Seattle in February to ask Washington state
lawmakers for tax money to renovate Key Arena.
Sonics owner Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks Corp.,
has threatened to move or sell the team if state lawmakers don't
approve a sales-tax package to pay for a new or renovated arena.
But state lawmakers last month said there would be no deal this
"... They're not interested in having the NBA there. ... we understand that there are competing issues, and the mayor is free to make whatever decisions he needs to make and I support that. But that's a pretty strong signal and I think that the existing ownership has said they don't want to own a team that's not in Seattle, so I know what they're in the process of doing. "
NBA Commissioner David Stern
"I would say that the city is making it pretty clear of what
they want us to do, and we'll accommodate them," Stern said.
Asked what that meant, Stern responded: "What I mean is they're
not interested in having the NBA there. We understand that, we
understand that there are competing issues, and the mayor is free
to make whatever decisions he needs to make and I support that.
"But that's a pretty strong signal and I think that the
existing ownership has said they don't want to own a team that's
not in Seattle, so I know what they're in the process of doing. So
we'll just see how this play ends."
Marianne Bichsel, spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Nickels, said the
city wants the Sonics to remain in Seattle.
"The mayor has made it perfectly clear in several interviews
given, the Sonics have been in Seattle for 40-plus years, and we
would like them around another 40-plus years and we'd like them at
Key Arena," she said. "We're in discussions with the Sonics a lot
about the situation, but we have a lease through 2010 and we fully
expect that the lease will be honored."
The Sonics declined comment on Stern's quotes.
But once the lease expires in 2010, it doesn't sound as if the
league would stand in the way if ownership wants to move the
"It's not a very good lease, to say the least it's the worst in
the league," Stern said. "The city says they're not prepared to
do anything to improve it. I don't think this is a difficult
Also, Stern said he would "never say never" to getting
involved again in the situation in Portland. The NBA recently
pulled out of the process of trying to help find one buyer for both
the Trail Blazers and the Rose Garden because it was frustrated by
Portland Arena Management, the lenders who now own the arena.
And he repeated that the Hornets will return to New Orleans,
even if investors from Oklahoma buy a minority share of the team
from George Shinn, saying that he didn't even know how the Hornets
would get out of their lease with the city.
"I have no idea," he said, "because we're not planning to