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NBA returning briefly to Seattle; questions of future team loom

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem to be a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a complete recent generation of children who have to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the town through a 20-year NBA profession and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They should give you the option to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest temporary return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the primary time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where probably the most of the Clippers’ big names — Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson — weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game 4 years ago, the primary one in Seattle because the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years within the Pacific Northwest. One other big crowd is anticipated Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been within the NBA. So simply to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver just a few years back. I feel like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game on the (Memorial) Coliseum. So each time we get to do something like that, I at all times enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was an actual thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I’m excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s at all times been an awesome city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unlucky that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will decide to expand. Because of the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems prone to be on the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal a few possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the brand new collective bargaining agreement and tv deals which are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in query. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned within the years because the Sonics left and because the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to hold the banner for the town, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this 12 months’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, one other Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided an ideal example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the possibility to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the town in greater than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what an awesome basketball city we’re,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The concept for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the results of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The 2 close friends wanted their teams to fulfill within the preseason and Lue noted the owners for each teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I feel it was. So simply to give you the option to return there and you realize, Mr. Ballmer and sort of see his offices and the way he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a likelihood to see his owner, after which to be with my best friend, I believed it might be an awesome common ground,” Lue said.

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AP Basketball Author Tim Reynolds and AP Sports Writers Beth Harris and Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.

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