4/16/2014

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Jon Humbert: If not the Kings, maybe the Bucks become the Sonics

Jon Humbert: If not the Kings, maybe the Bucks become the Sonics
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeramey Jannene
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Is the outlook bleak or does Supersonic hope still spring eternal? 

New rumblings out of Milwaukee reveal that not all is well with the NBA's Bucks franchise. Like Sacramento (you might have heard their name once or twice in the Seattle arena saga), Milwaukee is trying to cobble together a plan with local leaders and taxpayers in order to replace an aging, substandard arena.

Powerful politico Herb Kohl is a former Senator and current owner of the Bucks. He has said to local media that he does not have the capital to build a new arena to replace the 25 year old BMO Harris Bradley Center.
 
So like investor Chris Hansen and the Maloofs before him, Kohl is working hard to use his political capital to get financing that will work for Milwaukee
 
The Bucks recently presented a report to the NBA Board of Governors about their arena task force. The NBA declined comment Tuesday and the Bucks did not provide provide details about their report to the owners.
 
Fans are on board with the effort, but in a different way than Seattle fans. A group recently launched a website, SaveOurBucks.com as a landing spot for fans to plan to help the town keep the team.
The group is raising money to create a billboard to beg the team to tank the rest of the season in order to get better draft picks. 
 
Seattle's tone is different.
 
Rage, spite and revenge have been the playbook for many Sonics faithful. They have aimed vitriol at a former mayor, state lawmakers, coffee mogul Howard Schultz, and more. The most serious hate is reserved for outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern. Many Sonics fans feel he was instrumental in orchestrating not only the move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City, but also in putting his thumb on the scales in the Sacramento decision to keep the team in the California capital. 
Stern is leaving in 2014 though. 
 
Sonics fans have found hope as they parse the words and read the tea leaves of soon-to-be commissioner Adam Silver. He has hinted that expansion could be the route that brings Seattle a team. However, that could only happen with a new television contract and negotiations could start in 2014.
 
So where does this leave the Bucks?
 
The current lease runs until 2017, and Kohl and the city want to have a deal in place long before that. If Kohl cannot make the arena viable, it could be KeyArena Part Two: Stern's Revenge.
 
Kohl is a local man who knows the political game well. Selling to an out of town investment group that is already seen as predatory by a majority of NBA owners cannot endear him to the locals.
Hansen never revealed which teams he has spoken to in the past, but told me personally it was more than one franchise. 
 
Hansen has his own fires to put out though. In September, he was fined $50,000 for secretly donating $100,000 to an anti-arena effort in Sacramento. He failed to disclose the donation and meddling in Sacramento's arena debate. 
 
Last week, Initiative 91 supporters released a study that they say shows the city and county are illegally giving Hansen's group $731 million in subsidies to build the Sodo arena. Hansen blasted back in a lengthy response on his arena website. 
 
Could Hansen make overtures to Kohl and ramp up the speculation mill again? Tough to see that happening in the near future. His investment group has deep pockets and Hansen has admitted he has more patience about this than many Sonics fans. It may be some time before the Bucks' leadership has to make tough decisions. 
 
But it is another vulnerable team. 
 
And Seattle wants someone to cheer. 
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