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Barry, Schrempf optimistic about Seattle landing NBA franchise
A young girl held up a sign in the team's trademark green-and-yellow lettering with a simple message: "BRING BACK OUR SUPERSONICS."
Two former Sonics, Brent Barry and Detlef Schrempf, both of whom were visiting the area for the latter's annual celebrity golf tournament Monday at McCormick Woods, said that is a realistic possibility.
Now that San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen has produced a plan to build a $490 million arena in Seattle's Sodo District, Barry and Schrempf both said the potential to land an NBA franchise rests with votes from the City of Seattle and King County councils. Hansen and his investment group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer, have agreed to contribute almost $300 million toward construction of an arena and another $500 million to buy an NBA team. The arena proposal would require up to $200 million in public bonds, which both councils are expected to vote on in August.
Schrempf, who works in wealth management for Coldstream Capital Management in Bellevue, said he believes the contribution from the ownership in addition to their financial stability will make it "hard to vote against this."
Barry said if both councils approve the arena proposal, finding a team to relocate to Seattle could be easier than some think. He said Sacramento and Milwaukee are vulnerable because both play in a couple of the NBA's oldest arenas, while Charlotte is another team that could move as the Bobcats have struggled financially and on and off the court, where they have posted a 229-411 record since entering the league as an expansion team in 2004.
"I do because in wake of what is happening around the country," said Barry, when asked if a team could move quickly. "It would be Seattle saving a franchise from itself."
Schrempf attended a rally in Seattle's Occidental Park on June 14 along with former teammates Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton to rally for a new arena. Estimates ranged from 2,000 to 6,000 supporters in attendance. Whatever the actual number was, Schrempf left encouraged.
"It was great," said Schrempf, who averaged 16.6 points a game in six seasons for the Sonics after being acquired from Indiana in a 1993 trade. "You saw the fans still were in it. It was fantastic."
Barry, who works as a commentator for NBA GameTime, agreed.
"The sentiment and goodwill is there," he said.
Seattle has not had an NBA team since 2008, when owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City. The Sonics played in Seattle for 41 years and won an NBA championship in 1979. The settlement between Bennett and the City of Seattle referred to a "shared history," where the Oklahoma City Thunder can continue to reference that title and other accomplishments along with a future franchise in Seattle. But not everything was protected in the settlement. If a team relocates to Seattle, the future Sonics might be forced to absorb the
records of that franchise rather than referring to the statistics accrued in the city from 1967 to 2008.
That notion bothers some, but not Schrempf.
"I don't think it really matters," he said. "Who cares? It will be our banners hanging from the rafters."
There is a historical precedent for a city maintaining its statistical records after a franchise moves, such as when the NFL's Cleveland Browns were rechristened the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. When Cleveland was awarded an expansion team in 1999, it was named the Browns and they retained their records from 1946-95. Barry is hopeful that Hansen's group can reach an agreement with Bennett that can produce a similar outcome, but said he is not optimistic considering the Thunder frequently reference the history of the franchise from Seattle.
Regardless of what happens with that, Schrempf said local fans always will own the memories of their team. Schrempf averaged 13.9 points per game during his 16-year career with Dallas, Indiana, Seattle and Portland, but his favorite memories were playing in the Emerald City. The Leverkusen, Germany, native came to the United States as a foreign exchange student and guided Centralia to a Class 3A (then AA) state championship in 1981. He also led the Huskies to Pac-10 championships in 1984 and '85. Schrempf later teamed with Kemp and Payton to take the Sonics to the NBA Finals in 1996, where they lost in six games against the Chicago Bulls.
"It was a great time," he said. "Playing in front of my home city is fantastic. It's something that hopefully everyone gets a chance to do."
And Schrempf hopes local fans will be able to see similar accomplishments here again soon.
"There's a lot of good karma and excitement," he said. "It can happen."