NBA fans are rejoicing over the beginning of the new season and the opening of training camps. With the expected ratification of the collective bargaining agreement today by both the players and the owners, the 150-plus day lockout will come to an end.
Many fans were struggling to cope without the NBA in their lives. Welcome to life in Seattle, I guess.
The Basketball Jones will not go away in the Emerald City as Sonics fans continue to yearn for a return of their team — or the arrival of any team — to cheer for. The team left for Oklahoma City three years ago and Seattle has stayed on at least one person’s mind — Gary Payton.
Payton, who helped support the Save the Sonics movement before the team officially moved, has continued to represent the Sonics and has continued to work to help Seattle return the Sonics.
“I want to get a team back there and I think we got a lot of people that are really on board for that,” Payton told So Cal Sports Media in Orange County, Calif. “We’re eligible to do that in September of next year. … We’re going to be OK. I think it’s going to happen.”
Payton seems very focused in supporting the city’s quest to return the NBA to the city. He said his focus for the rest of the year is to get a team back in Seattle and that it is on his “agenda” to work with an undisclosed group to get a team back in Seattle.
Payton spent the better part of 13 seasons in Seattle, helping guide them to the 1996 Finals and plenty more strong regular seasons and deep playoff runs. When the Thunder approached Payton about retiring his jersey in Oklahoma City, Payton refused citing his lack of connection to that iteration of the franchise and his affection for Seattle. Since then, it seems, Payton has been the public face of the city’s quest to get a team back.
Of course, that likely will not happen unless another team decides to move. Expansion is certainly not on the table right now coming out of this lockout. Then there is the issue of why the Sonics moved in the first place — the arena. The NBA will not return without a new arena and the public seems less willing to pay for that now that one team has left.
You wouldn’t blame Seattle residents for being a bit cynical about the game of musical chairs sports leagues play with cities across the nation.
Still, Seattle remains probably one of the top cities to net an NBA team the next time one comes up for moving. There is obviously a still impassioned fan base there — several Sonics fans crashed a Thunder playoff game in Denver this year — that wants to see its team returned.
With Payton hinting that there might be a group of people he is working with, maybe the financial capital is there too.
Until the team returns though, the lockout continues in Seattle.