Future Sonics

The question now becomes: How does Seattle get back into the NBA ranks? Maybe like this:

There will be a team in Seattle, and it will most likely be the former Grizzlies. Professional sports in Tennessee, other than the Titans, have not been particularly successful. The [NHL Nashville] Predators might be on the way out as well. The Grizzlies will go back to the Pacific Northwest, where they started just across the border, and then they can realign the divisions so that they make sense again (put the Grizzlies/New Sonics in the Northwest and the OKC TBDs in the Southwest — them playing in the Northwest next season will be ridiculous, but can’t be avoided).

I think the best option would be to take the Clippers away from [Donald] Sterling. That guy is such a loser, with his absolute obsession with being the No. 3 client in Staples when he could be top dog in the Honda Center but refuses to go there. The best thing for the league would be to get the Clippers the heck out of Staples — it’s so moronic that they won’t at least go to Anaheim. But I don’t think Sterling would let his toy go to Ballmer or anyone else.

They won’t move the Hornets because attendance went way up at the end of the season, and poaching K-Ville would look even worse than Bennett’s shenanigans. They already lost the Jazz way back when, and another team won’t be taken from them.

Grizzlies it is. No real history in Memphis, no devoted fan base, nobody who really cares much about them. Mark my words, Ballmer poaches the Grizzlies. With the OKC TBDs down in the area, that covers the Tennessee/Arkansas market anyway.

Expansion can’t be ruled out out completely either. Vegas and KC are itching for a team, and I just can’t see the Maloofs moving the Kings after all this. But for the New Sonics, I really do see the Grizzlies as the most likely quarry for Ballmer. I just don’t see a whole “Save Our Grizzlies” grassroots movement happening, so it’s really no comparison.

A couple of years ago, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley attempted to sell out, but the deal foundered, perhaps because it was contingent on, among other things, the team staying put in Memphis for four more years. (Where have we heard this before?) There was, in fact, a “Save the Grizzlies” grassroots movement — but it was in Vancouver, before the Griz abandoned the Northwest for the Mid-South. (Where have we heard this before?)

Prying the Clippers out of L.A. is a new one on me, but it makes a certain amount of sense: the Lakers dominate that market, and likely always will. The Clippers are no longer the doormats of the NBA — it’s unlikely they’ll ever again have a season as bad as 1986-87, when they lost 70 games out of 82 — but middling success insures they’ll never have a national constituency the way the Lakers do. And certainly the Hornets aren’t going anywhere, for exactly the reasons given.

So: the Grizzlies. Not an impossible scenario. But it’s worth remembering that the Griz departed the 20,000-seat Pyramid Arena in 2004 in favor of the smaller but more lucrative FedEx Forum. What happened to the Pyramid? It’s about to be turned into one of those Bass Pro Shops. Fans of Seattle’s KeyArena as it is should be shuddering about now.


  1. McGehee »

    5 July 2008 · 3:20 pm

    Cabela’s doesn’t have a Seattle-area venue, I don’t think…

    I’m still mystified that anyone thought the Clippers would ever catch fire in L.A. Being in San Diego made a certain amount of sense, but if they couldn’t find enough support there, they shouldn’t have tried to move into a market that already had, as you say, a team with a national following. That would be like the Washington Bullets Capitals moving to Boston or Chicago.

    I wonder if I should be surprised or relieved I hadn’t known Memphis even had an NBA team…

  2. CGHill »

    5 July 2008 · 4:04 pm

    Given their attendance figures, there are likely people in Memphis who hadn’t known Memphis even had an NBA team.

    Washington being bullet-shy (and short of capital) of late, the team in the District is presently called the Wizards.

    Before the Clippers were the Clippers, they were the Buffalo Braves. A little history from Wikipedia:

    Because of the team’s poor play in its final two years (30-52 in 1976-77 and 27-55 in 1977-78), along with rumors of the franchise relocating because of low season ticket sales, John Y. Brown met with the then-owner of the Celtics, Irv Levin and negotiated a deal in which the owners would swap franchises, in which Brown would take control of the Celtics and Levin would get the Braves. Levin was a California businessman, and wanted to own an NBA team in his native state. The deal was brokered by David Stern, the general counsel for the NBA who later became the league’s commissioner in 1984.

    I mention this purely for the purpose of precedent.

  3. CT »

    5 July 2008 · 6:49 pm

    The Capitals do live in DC as well, of course — they’re the team with the skates and hockey sticks. (And even more irrelevant background: The former Bullets were in Baltimore before they headed down the road for Washington.)

    As for the Grizzlies’ lack of love from Memphis, perhaps they would have endeared themselves more if the NBA had allowed local company FedEx to buy the franchise’s naming rights. The aborted “Memphis Express” is the closest yet that one of the Big Four leagues came to outright corporate branding of a team.

  4. McGehee »

    6 July 2008 · 1:26 pm

    Capitals, Wizards — do they still have the Senators?

  5. CGHill »

    6 July 2008 · 1:38 pm

    They moved to Texas and became the Rangers. (As distinguished from an earlier bunch of Senators, who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.)

    The current D.C. baseball club is called the Atonals Nationals.

  6. McGehee »

    6 July 2008 · 4:36 pm

    I happened on a sports report the other day and couldn’t understand what major-league baseball team would be named after a tiny, bothersome insect. Minor league, I could understand…

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