Apparently unsatisfied with the response to his grumbling over Seattleites lacking the “heart” for Sonics arena subsidies, NBA commissioner David Stern upped the ante yesterday, telling reporters in Phoenix:
“I’d love to find a way to keep the team there. Because if the team moves, there’s not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.”
“If the Sonics do move, that would be too bad, because the NBA would be very unlikely to have a team in Seattle again.”
Needless to say, Stern would be cutting off his nose to spite his face if he followed through with the threat: Seattle is the nation’s 14th-largest media market, which isn’t something you leave vacant lightly. Seattle deputy mayor Tim Ceis, who has been one of the most vocal local critics of the Sonics’ arena funding demands, certainly seemed in no mood to play Blackmail, replying:
“If his strategy is to increase pressure on the city and state, it’s not working very well. He’s creating an exact opposite reaction. My suggestion is that Mr. Stern stop with the verbal airballs and talk to us directly instead of taking shots through press conferences.
“We hope he isn’t trying to aid and abet Mr. Bennett’s strategy for trying to break the lease. We’d like to take him at his word that he wants to keep the team here, but it’s hard to believe that with all this verbal nonsense being thrown at us. It’s getting a little old.”