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Optimism is OK, but remain cautious with NBA talk

The NBA hasn’t been this exciting in years, yet in Seattle, it’s never been harder to watch.

Most Seattleites likely cringed at the fact that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 91 points Sunday, as the Oklahoma City Thunder continued to dominate the Western Conference — Seattle’s draft picks with OKC’s fans getting the privilege of cheering them on.

There has been frustration, sadness, and bitterness in Seattle during these long, NBA-less winters. However, there is hope that all that melancholy may be coming to an end as early as next year. Just remember, that’s all it is at this point: hope.

Should the Sacramento Kings miss their March 1 deadline to come up with a plan for a new arena, there’s a chance they could be in Key Arena for the 2012-13 season. Seattle has its plan for a new building that would include a $290 million contribution from Seattle native Christopher Hansen.

There’s room for optimism, since this is the most solid effort at securing another NBA team since the Sonics left in 2008, but I can’t completely buy it just yet.

As a Sonics fan, I know what false hope feels like. When Howard Schultz sold out and put the Sonics in the hands of Clay Bennett, a businessman from Oklahoma, I was narrow-minded enough to believe that there was actually a chance that he would keep the team in Seattle.

After getting fooled once, Seattle needs to realize becoming emotionally invested in the prospect of a team coming back is still a bit premature.

While what Hansen has pledged is more than generous to the city and the arena plan seems ironclad, the biggest issue is that Seattle would have to have a team before breaking ground for the new building.

Getting a team won’t exactly be as easy for Seattle as it was for Bennett and Oklahoma City, in that the Kings’ owners — Joe and Gavin Maloof — have expressed their unwillingness to sell the team. The Maloofs nearly moved the Kings to Anaheim last year, and it seems like that could still be an option should they remain the owners. Anaheim has the Honda Center, where the NHL’s Ducks play, which seems to be a sufficient home for an NBA team.

Even with the logistics of a new building plan set up, the relocation process could be a difficult one for Seattle. When the Sonics were hijacked, NBA commissioner David Stern was a key player as the city took Bennett’s ownership group to court over the lease at Key Arena. Not to mention the devil himself, Bennet, is now the chairman of the NBA’s relocation committee.

The NBA currently owns the New Orleans Hornets, the other franchise that appears in jeopardy of being relocated. As Stern showed by effectively vetoing a trade that would have sent Chris Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers, he controls the destiny of that organization until it finds a new owner. He could be just as picky in deciding who to sell the team to as he was with the Paul fiasco.

What kind of attitude would Stern and Bennett have in regards to the NBA in Seattle after removing the Sonics in such a heartless manner?

From the Seattle side of things, the pieces are in place to house an NBA franchise in the future. It’s OK to be excited at the prospect of the Kings or Hornets playing here, but it’s also important to consider that this is only the start and factors outside of the Pacific Northwest will influence the league’s potential return.

Reach columnist Pete Treperinas at sports@dailyuw.com or on Twitter @ptreperinas.

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