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Originally published April 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Page modified April 14, 2012 at 4:31 PM

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Not to gloat, but ... Sacramento's loss could be Seattle's gain

Seattle hoop fans can feel Sacramento's pain. But the problems with the arena in Sacramento could be good news for those who want to see the NBA return to Seattle.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Obviously frustrated and disappointed, NBA commissioner David Stern faced reporters Friday and declared that his league had "done as much as we can" to get an arena deal done in Sacramento.

He said the plan that five weeks ago looked as if it would save the game in that city "was not going to happen."

It should be easy for Seattle's NBA fans to feel sympathy for the Sacramento Kings' faithful. Seattle knows what it's like to have an owner who no longer wants the team in their town.

Seattle understands the emotional back-and-forth of arena negotiations. This city lived it. This city lost what Sacramento now seems about to lose.

"I think there's nothing further to be done," Stern said.

Sacramento is back where it was a year ago, when the Maloof brothers, the team's owners, were preparing to move the team to Anaheim. That has to be tough on a fan base that feels, like Seattle did, that it hasn't done anything to deserve this pain.

But now Seattle has an opportunity to build an arena it needs in the worst way. It has a chance to bring an NBA team back to town, and Friday's news out of New York is very, very, very good news for Seattle's NBA fans.

I know, we've been here before. Bad news is followed by good news is followed by more bad news is followed by ... Gloating can turn to groaning in just a few days.

But everything still is in play for Seattle, just as everything still is up in the air.

Questions have to be resolved.

If the Sacramento deal is declared permanently dead, how quickly can all Seattle's political forces respond? Can they solve all of the knotty issues involved in any arena deal in the next couple of months?

And how emotionally invested is Stern in Sacramento? The league has bivouacked in that city for almost six years.

Stern will be retiring soon and does he want another franchise moving this close to the end of his reign?

Maybe Stern is amping up the pressure on the Maloofs, hoping he can force them to sell. Maybe he thinks he can salvage the deal if the brothers sell to a Bay Area super-richie like Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison.

Stern said Friday that the league is continuing to make scheduling plans for next season, for the Kings at Power Balance Arena.

But does he want another lousy, lame-duck season like he had with the Sonics in 2007-08 with angry patrons, a less-than-half-full gym and a bad team?

Would Clay Bennett's relocation committee really allow the Maloofs to move to Anaheim? I don't think so. Lakers owner Jerry Buss doesn't want them in his backyard.

It is obvious from talking with people around the NBA that the league wants a team back in Seattle. And let's remember, Chris Hansen, the Bay Area investor who could be the hero in Seattle's quest for winter sports, is proposing the construction of an almost $600 million arena.

It's exactly the kind of an arena, in the kind of city, the NBA wants.

Hansen, who had ACL surgery Friday, issued a statement in the early evening:

"I would just like to reiterate our position that we don't think it's appropriate to comment or speculate about other NBA franchises, particularly when these franchises are in the midst of trying to find solutions to their own arena issues.

"I believe our attention and efforts should instead be focused on finalizing our deal to build the type of world-class sports arena that could host both the NBA and NHL. However, these developments (regarding the Kings) are a reminder that franchise opportunities may arise quickly and in an unpredictable fashion.

"So we should continue our joint efforts to find an arena solution that best works for the city, county and the various constituencies of our community in as timely a fashion as is feasible to ensure we are in a position to take advantage of an inevitable opportunity when it arises."

His tone was pitch-perfect, and he's right. Opportunities will arise. They are inevitable. The NHL could come here sooner rather than later. The Kings are in limbo when they should be on their way to Seattle.

Once again there is hope.

But then again, we've been here before.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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