Warriors' Rick Welts talks problematic path for Seattle to get NBA team


The city of Seattle should have an NBA team.

Plain and simple.

The SuperSonics played in "The Emerald City" for 41 seasons from 1967 to 2008, but an ownership change resulted in the franchise moving to Oklahoma City.

Former Warriors superstar Kevin Durant played his rookie season for the SuperSonics. The next time the city hosted an NBA game was Oct. 5, 2018, when KD and the Warriors played the Kings in a preseason matchup at Key Arena.

It was an incredible night.

Will an NBA team call Seattle home within the next five years?

"I sure hope so. If there's one thing that I could wish for our league structurally, I think it would be to get a team back to Seattle," Warriors president Rick Welts told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh on the "Habershow" podcast. "It's obviously a really personal issue for me. I know what that team meant to that city -- bringing the first professional championship to Seattle.

"It's an amazing market. A lot of the future of the world is being envisioned there. It's got a vibrant community that would really support an NBA team coming back."

Welts, a Seattle native, attended the University of Washington. He was a ballboy for the SuperSonics at one point, and he was their director of public relations when they won the NBA title in 1979.

He, more than anybody, knows the NBA belongs in Seattle.

"But the path is problematic," he said. "The good news is the NBA's business is really successful right now, and that means we have 30 teams operating without anyone feeling like they're in a market where they can't support NBA basketball.

"And the owners -- I would say probably to their credit -- have shown no interest. And the league hasn't really promoted any expansion agenda. So how do you get a team there? I don't think I'm going out on a limb to make the prediction that the next team -- the next new market in the NBA -- will be Seattle. But the path on how we get there is pretty murky right now."

Without expansion, a current franchise would need to relocate. The Kings nearly moved to Seattle in 2013 but will be staying in Sacramento permanently.

The Pelicans recently have been rumored to be a top candidate, but landing Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick last June might keep them in New Orleans.

It seems like Memphis (who moved from Vancouver in 2001) could emerge as the team to pack its bags.

Where would a hypothetical Seattle team play its home games?

"It's complicated. There are two parties involved in the construction of that arena that have to make the economics work, and neither one of them happens to be an NBA team," Welts explained. "There's a hockey team and there's a stadium construction company that are investing probably close to $1 billion to renovate the existing Key Arena into a new hockey facility.

"And the question becomes -- is there enough room there for an NBA team to enter that market and have the kind of economics that an NBA team would need, on top of the fair interests of the hockey team and the interest of the people who invested the money to build that stadium.

"Maybe is the answer. I think that's something that we haven't figured out yet because there hasn't really been a real opportunity to flush through what it would take."

Seattle's expansion hockey team will join the NHL for the 2021-22 season.

[RELATED: Why Warriors aren't thinking about draft now?]

We only can hope a professional basketball team joins the NBA shortly thereafter.

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