Many who clamor to get the National Basketball Association back to Seattle might be advised to Google anything associated with "NBA lockout 2011." Do so and get ready for a veritable server-crashing volume of news and blog content: more posts than Kevin McHale amassed for the Celtics. The consensus: There may not be an NBA season next season; ditto the National Football League.
Nothing amid the posturing among league management and labor negotiators in either pro-sports situation indicates anything other than intractable labor-management enmity and player lockouts next year. Real-world economic stresses finally seem to be catching up with the fantasy worlds of pro sports.
The duplicitous NBA commish, David Stern, concedes whenever asked that his league keeps an annual balance sheet $400 million in the red. This is fitting in a grim sense when most of the municipalities that lend their names to the NBA franchises also are in budget crises.
No domain is more worthy of a comeuppance than the NBA. For years the league has been broken in many ways, not least being a perennially worse "competitive" product characterized by preening one-man-show "stars" who alienate teammates and fans. It's an attraction predicated on the dubious assumption that thousands of sane people would leave home on a blustery night in February and pay a few hundred bucks for parking, tix, grub, and glub to watch the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves play the Washington Wizards or Sacramento Kings.
Headline: Microsoft tycoon Steve Ballmer might – MIGHT – be scheming to buy the financially strapped New Orleans Hornets franchise and move it to Seattle as a resurrected Sonics incarnation. If so, it might be a better civic gesture were he to just give the money to charities such as Washington state government and be glad to continue sitting at courtside at Hec Ed watching what may be the best NBA-caliber team not associated with the pro league.
That, of course, would be the 2010-'11 Washington Huskies men.
You wanted scoring with your basketball? The Huskies going into a Saturday (Dec. 11) pre-Pac 10-season game at Texas A&M, score better per game than any team in the NCAA. At 96 per game, they’d rank 23rd among NBA teams, one better than the nearest big-league franchise, the Portland Trailblazers. This is the reality even given that the Dawgs and other college teams play eight fewer minutes per game than pro teams. If the Huskies played 48 minutes, they'd project to a team scoring average of 115: best in the NBA.
The Dawgs, in an important sense, draw better than the Hornets. The latter are ranked in home attendance 28th out of 30 NBA teams. Yes, New Orleans averages 13,000 but that’s just 79 percent of capacity. The Huskies routinely sell out their smaller arena.
One also could argue that college basketball at just about any level is eminently more absorbing than the formulaic play of the NBA. "Team" still has meaning among collegians. Coaching counts for something other than sending out five pampered egomaniacs and watching them not pass the ball.
A nagging detail amid the growing calls for Ballmer to put up hundreds of millions for a team and a KeyArena renovation has largely gone unmentioned, at least publicly. But isn't there a moral dimension here? Didn't we just spend four years vilifying the almost comically unlikeable Clay Bennett group for "stealing" everybody’s suddenly beloved Sonics?
Do we now support in effect stealing a franchise from New Orleans (or Sacramento, or any of a half-dozen other struggling operations)?
Only Ballmer may know answers to these and other questions but one thing is clear to all: Next season there'll be Husky basketball and, from the way head coach Lorenzo Romar's brain trust has been recruiting, it probably will be pretty damned good.