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Originally published Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Sonics need a savior: Are you Interested?

An open letter to Microsoft CEO and hoop maven Steve Ballmer: Dear Mr. Ballmer: First of all, let me say I've gotten several scouting reports...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Today

Golden State @ Seattle, 6 p.m., FSN

An open letter to Microsoft CEO and hoop maven Steve Ballmer:

Dear Mr. Ballmer:

First of all, let me say I've gotten several scouting reports on your game. I know you're one of a cadre of cagers who play predawn games at the Pro Club in Bellevue. Anybody who is setting picks and running fast breaks at 5 in the morning is my kind of person.

"He has a nice little game," one of my scouts said.

"He's a good guy to play with," another said. "Gives the ball up."

We share an unquenchable love for the game. We love to play it and we love to watch guys much better than us turn our game into magic.

Which brings me to the inevitable question regarding our game in our town.

Will you help us? Please.

I don't know if you've been watching the games on ESPN or listening to the commentators on TNT. I don't know if you've seen the NBA shows on cable.

But when they talk about the game in Seattle, almost all of them speak of it in the past tense.

They mention the rich history. They say they're sorry the city that has supported professional basketball for more than 40 years is losing the Sonics, but they make it sound like it's a done deal.

The Sonics belong to Oklahoma City.

I'm sure you've heard commissioner David Stern's propaganda. Over and over again he has criticized Seattle. Said it doesn't want the Sonics. He's mentioned talks he's had with state legislators, but let's be real here. There have been no negotiations.

And now Sonics boss Clay Bennett has started the Doomsday Clock, filing for relocation. It seems only ESPN's Hubie Brown, who might be one of the best educators on television, is the only one getting it right. During the Sonics' recent loss to New Jersey, he reminded viewers that the near future of the franchise will be decided in the courts.

If the courts rule the Sonics must be held to their KeyArena lease agreement, the team will be here at least through the 2009-10 season.

And, at the very least, we'll be able to watch rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green and future point guard Derrick Rose (just guessing) grow up in this town.

But right now, the overwhelming national perception is that the Sonics are gone. I heard it over the Thanksgiving holiday when I was in New York watching the train wreck that is Knicks basketball.

When people found out I was from Seattle, they all said the same basic thing. "Sorry you guys are losing your basketball team. You deserve better than that."

So I guess this is where you come in.

I believe the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City is a long way from being a done deal. A long way.

I know that, from Olympia to the Seattle City Council, bubbling under the surface, there are movers and shakers, trying to put together an arena deal that works, whether it's a remodeled Key or something new at the Seattle Center or elsewhere.

Hoop lovers with deep pockets and/or friends in the NBA hierarchy are meeting and texting and talking on their phones, trying to figure out ways to save the Sonics.

I don't know if you have attended any games this season, but the fan reaction inside KeyArena has been remarkable. I wish Stern could take in a few games.

I mean here's a young team that will be lucky to win 25 games. A team that is 3-14 and lost its first seven home games before winning its first on Friday. But in the fourth quarter of close games — and almost every home game has been close — these fans, who have been orphaned by the league, are on their feet.

They're cheering this team as if they can see into the future. They chant "Save Our Sonics" every night. They haven't given up.

But I think they need someone with your clout to give them hope. I know the national pundits need someone with your clout just to say, "Not so fast. We ain't done yet."

It's easy for someone with no money like me to tell someone like you how to spend your money. It's presumptuous as well.

This city's legion of basketball fans, however, needs a hero besides Kevin Durant. It needs you to say, "I love the game as much as you guys do and I'm here to help."

I know there is a lot of work left to do. But I'm tired of Stern bad-mouthing this city, even if it is just a negotiating trick. And I think Stern and the rest of the basketball-loving nation need to know the real story.

Basketball isn't dead yet in Seattle. The Seattle Sonics have a pulse. You, Mr. Ballmer, and other ardent gamers like you, must fight for this team.

Seattle needs someone with muscle to go public. Someone like you, who, according to my scouts, knows how the game is played.

Will you help? Please.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. Watch his weekly vodcast at www.seattletimes.com/sports

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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