This day was never supposed to happen, remember? The Kings were never going to Seattle, their fans were never going to forgive anyone affiliated with the group that tried to poach Sacramento’s NBA franchise, and besides, no one wants to play in dumpy KeyArena anyway.
Right. So here they come.
The Golden State Warriors will host the Kings on Oct. 6 in a preseason game at – you guessed it – KeyArena. All that is left is for the parties to sign and submit the contract, which according to multiple league sources, is a mere formality. This is happening.
The Kings are game. The Warriors really want to do this. Kevin Durant, who made his debut with the SuperSonics a decade ago during their final season in the Pacific Northwest, undoubtedly has been consulted and presumably has no objection. And while a segment of Kings fans are unforgiving, and many Sonics fans are gnashing their teeth and still agonizing about what they lost and what might have been – this is absolutely irresistible.
The NBA, remember, is all about entertainment. League executives thrive on dynamic personalities and high drama, though Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks scandal is not exactly what they want dominating the news cycle. Think of Kings-Warriors then as Showtime north, because long before KD, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox or Willie Cauley-Stein will so much as put a toe on Seattle turf, the conversation figures to command the stage for the remainder of the season and throughout the long, hot Sacramento summer.
How did all this come to be? This one’s a slam dunk. One need not search far and wide to uncover the brains behind the move: Rick Welts. For the Warriors president, a marketing genius and child of the NBA entertainment-driven culture, this traces to his roots. He grew up in Seattle, worked for the Sonics from 1979-89 alongside his sister, Nancy, and in another connective-tissue element, lives with his family in Carmichael.
By scheduling an NBA game in Seattle for the first time since the Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, he is delivering an assist to his hometown, pushing for a reconciliation and re-introduction, along with an opportunity to re-ignite the intensely passionate, understandably tortured discussion about bringing back the Sonics, via expansion or (gulp) relocation.
“I’m sure we will have conflicted feelings,” said Adam Brown, co-producer of the 2009 award-winning “Sonicsgate” documentary. “There is a lot of baggage regarding the whole saga. But overall, if we can remove some of the emotion, this is a step in the right direction. Anything that involves NBA participation here is a positive thing. Durant coming back to a city where he won Rookie of the Year … the fans will totally welcome him back. Klay Thompson went to Washington State, and the Warriors play that up-and-down brand of basketball that we loved when we had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.”
Brown, as surprised by the news as everyone, had a confession to make: He is a closet Kings fans.
“I watch a lot of Kings basketball,” he said with a laugh, “and I really like their youth movement. I have Bogdanovic and Cauley-Stein on my fantasy team. I had George Hill, too, but I want to see more of their nice young core. And no hard feelings. Sacramento got to keep their team, and I’m glad they did because we know how heartbreaking it is to lose a team. A lot of us felt bad about that (attempted relocation).”
This is less about the Kings, in many respects. Because they hosted a game with the Warriors last preseason, they owed Golden State one this year – with date and location chosen by their neighbors to the west. And keep in mind that Dave Joerger and his squad will be mere visitors, in the city for about 48 hours and then flying out. They are not staying. They are coming home. They are not the aggrieved party, remember.
While Kings traveling security officials might try to ban Chris Hansen from KeyArena, as sort of a payback for his dirty-tricks campaign amid the sale from the Maloofs to principal owner Vivek Ranadive for $535 million, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer sprinted back to California and bought the Clippers, so no worries there. He won’t be a target for an egg or tomato toss.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” said Mike Tavares, co-founder of Crown Downtown, a grass-roots movement that worked to prevent the relocation. “It’s a little weird. But I actually look forward to flying to Seattle, watching a game, and meeting up with Adam (Brown) and Jason Reid, all the guys we went up against when we were trying to keep our team. I would wish them the best and hope this helps them get the Sonics back. But I will also remind them. ‘Hey, you’re watching my team.’ ”