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Tod Leiweke urges patience on NBA expansion to Seattle

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The SuperSonics may eventually return, but the man who would help bring the NBA back to Seattle is urging fans to be patient. Tod Leiweke, CEO of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, told Aaron Levine of Fox 13 that the city is ready to welcome back professional basketball, but he’s willing to do it on the NBA’s timetable.

There was excitement last week amid rumors that the league might be preparing to announce expansion plans at preseason games in Seattle and Las Vegas. Leiweke didn’t directly address those reports, but he said everything is in place for whenever the NBA is ready to expand.

“We think the best thing that we can do is not ever get ahead of the league,” Leiweke said. “They’ve got big issues coming: They’re in a CBA discussion, and they’ve got broadcast deals coming up. In due time, they will get to this. And in due time, we’re going to be well positioned.”

The Kraken play in Climate Pledge Arena, the Sonics’ former home, which was renovated starting in December 2018 and was renamed in 2020. In addition to the hockey team, the facility also houses the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and the Seattle University men’s basketball team and will get a franchise in the American Hockey League this fall. It can hold up to 18,300 people for basketball, and Leiweke believes it’s ready for the NBA.

“The hard work is done, building a world class arena,” he said. “That’s why the team left. We now have that world class arena in place. It will stand the test of time. The building is phenomenal for basketball. And we’re super excited about the Clippers playing the Portland Trail Blazers here. And in fact, two games that are gonna play here, the first NBA game in our building will happen that first week in October – and we’re going to have a packed house and in our own Seattle way we will tell the world we are here. We are ready.”

Although Leiweke is convinced that the city is ready for the Sonics, there are many things out of his control. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly stated that expansion isn’t an immediate priority, although Seattle is considered a very strong candidate whenever it does happen.

“We have an owner that owns part of an NBA team,” Leiweke said. “So there’s a built-in affinity there. And I would just say, Aaron, I came back to make some stuff happen. And we’re not done yet. And so, I don’t want to get ahead of the commissioner. But we’ve tried to do everything right. From privately financing a building, to saving a historic landmark, to embedding more capacitors and getting the monorail fixed, being great partners with the Storm, to building a training center. We’ve done everything right. But we’re not done. And we know this town won’t be fulfilled until we bring the NBA back. But I’ll leave it at that.”

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