On Sunday night I went to my very first NBA game. But because it couldn’t be a Sonics game, we made the three hour drive south to the next closest team.
Trailblazers VP of communications, Michael Lewellen says other Puget sounders, craving an NBA game have been doing the same.
“There is an increase of folks coming down for Blazers games,” says Lewellen. “Of course since Paul Allen owns the Seahawks and the Sounders, also owns the Blazers, there’s a special connectivity.”
Sean Whitney came down with his wife and small children from Lake Forest Park, Washington.
“We didn’t have much reason to come down to Portland for NBA unless they were playing the Sonics, right? But now we come because the Sonics are no longer in Seattle.”
I wondered if it was hard for him to change his team loyalty, simply because of geographic necessity.
“They can be my new team until I get the Sonics back in Seattle and then obviously my allegiance is with them.”
My seat was next to Portland’s Scott Kienow, who was watching the game with his 6-year-old son Mathew.
Little Mathew is the ultimate fan: he had on his Blazers jersey, his hair was tipped with red and white paint, Rip City was painted on his forehead. Scott says there is a worry that Paul Allen will try and move his team up to Seattle.
“I think its a big fear for us because it’s been talked about, since he bought the team, that he’d move it up to Seattle. So it is a fear for Portland and Portland fans, definitely.”
Moving the team may seem like a long shot, but Sacramento nearly lost their team and we most certainly lost ours.
“It wouldn’t phase me if Portland moved up to Seattle. I don’t see it happening, but Seattle needs a team, that’s the bottom line,” Scott says. “I just don’t want them to take Portland’s team. I grew up with the Trailblazers. In the early 90’s this was huge for us. We were in high school and we were down here all the time. It was a big deal for us. I see it with the next generation of kids. I have kids now and the Blazers are huge for us. This is what we have for professional sports.”
Of course, Sean wants Seattle to have a basketball team, but he doesn’t want it to be a down and dirty deal.
“I go back to the whole chatter on Sacramento,” Scott says. “Because I know how it feels to have your team relocated to another city, I wouldn’t want to do that to another city. I love the NBA and I want it back in Seattle, but I don’t want to pillage another city for a team. I’d rather have a relocation that’s planned or expand. But I know expansion, at least Silver says that it’s not likely to happen. I guess if we’re going to get a team in Seattle, it’s going to be from another city. I just really hope it’s not how Clay Bennett did it to Seattle.”
Sunday night, the Blazers scored exactly 100 points, beating the Pelicans and securing a spot in the playoffs. So if you want a little NBA action, put a bird on it, pour yourself a cup of Stumptown coffee and take a three hour trip south to basketball town.
“When it comes to pro-sports in the state of Oregon, we see the Trailblazers as not just Portland’s team, but Oregon’s team and the Northwest’s team,” Michael says.