From the sounds of it, Steve Ballmer appears committed to bringing NBA hoops back to the Emerald City.
Two weeks after the NBA voted to prevent an investment group led by the Microsoft CEO and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen from bringing the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, Hansen sat down with local TV and radio stations on Tuesday.
Hansen appeared both on KJR radio and with our news partner KING5 for two candid interviews, during which the 45-year-old addressed a number of interesting topics and reflected on a tumultuous past couple of months and years.
When asked by KJR’s Dave Mahler about Ballmer’s future involvement, Hansen made clear that “you really should ask Steve,” and that he “does not like to speak for other people.” But he did add that he expects to have the same ownership group, which also includes Erik and Peter Nordstrom, move forward with another attempt to bring the NBA to Seattle.
“I think we all really enjoyed working with each other,” Hansen said on KJR. “Everyone is in this for the right reasons. Everybody is in it to do something great for the city and is really passionate about that. [The past few months] were frustrating and people handled that differently — everybody’s emotional demeanor is a little different, even in our small group. But I think that this will be the same group that ends up buying the team if you ask me today.”
Ballmer was reported to be “incredibly emotional,” and “horribly disappointed,” when the NBA relocation committee made up of 12 owners unanimously voted to block Seattle’s bid to buy the Kings back in April. But it would not be surprising to see him continue to help bring basketball back to the city, something he deeply cares about. Ballmer was a regular at Sonics games before the team departed for Oklahoma City in 2008 and also was part of another investment group that tried to keep the team here five years ago.
On Tuesday, Hansen was confident that the NBA would be coming back to Seattle, but that it was “just a matter of time.” Although disappointed with the recent outcome, he was optimistic about the whole process in terms of what it means for eventually getting professional basketball to Seattle.
“We showed the NBA and the owners that Seattle is without a doubt the best available market,” he said. “It’s probably better than half the markets they have in the league.”
He also was surprised that Sacramento was able to rally together such strong support to keep its NBA team in town. Had Hansen known that Sacramento had the financial and political backing in place, he said his group probably would not have tried to bring the team to Seattle.
“We really thought the Kings were going to be leaving Sacramento and it was just a matter of where,” Hansen said. “To a certain extent, the NBA probably felt that way, too.
In terms of a road map, I would just say that we are not going to be in that position again. We are not going to go to another city as a predator and try to wrestle a team away. It’s unfortunate we found ourselves in that position and is not the way we wanted to handle things. After everything we’ve been through, it kind of made me sick to my stomach in a way, like how did I get myself in this position? This wasn’t how it was supposed to go down.”
But Hansen has clearly moved on from the disappointment. He’ll continue exploring possibilities of an NBA expansion team coming to Seattle when the NBA signs new television contracts in the next few years. The MOU that Hansen has with the city for the proposed SoDo arena lasts another five years, but a team must come to Seattle before construction begins.
When and how that team arrives in the city is certainly up in the air, and many in Seattle have disdain for the NBA after what has transpired during these past few months, as well as what went down in 2008.
Hansen, who has remained calm, cool and collective during this entire process, has a different stance.
“People need to get the bad taste out of their mouth and just move on,” he said. “Being resentful just doesn’t get you anywhere in life. If you want the Sonics back, it’s probably a good time to get over the anger and frustration and get back to doing what it takes to show everyone what a great city we are.”