Commentary: lay off Ballmer for seeking NBA team elsewhere

SEATTLE -- We start by putting our spotlight on the TMZ Sports report that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer planned on meeting Shelly Sterling this afternoon about selling the Clippers.

I’m as optimistic as anyone – but regardless of what the article alludes to – there’s little to no hope that Ballmer would attempt to move that franchise to Seattle for a simple reason: The NBA would never allow it.

In true TMZ form, today’s report sensationalizes the fear LA fans should have about Ballmer wanting to move the Clippers to Seattle. But we’re talking about the second-largest media market in the country, with a team that has found recent success. The NBA realizes the value of the Clippers – and would put an end to any relocation talk before it even started.

Even Ballmer himself has told the Wall Street Journal that “Moving (the Clippers) anywhere else would be value destructive.”

Remember – the Clippers are expected to be sold for north of a billion dollars. And as passionate as Ballmer was about bringing the NBA to Seattle last year, he’s still a businessman. He gets the financial recklessness of buying a team in LA and moving them to the Pacific Northwest.

And then there’s the league itself, which would scoff at such a notion.

While I don’t necessarily blame Ballmer for going after a lifelong dream of owning a pro basketball franchise, it’s hard not to feel a little abandoned, considering the long history of abandonment Seattle’s NBA fans have experienced over the past decade: There was Olympia. And Howard Schultz. The former Seattle City Council. And former Mayor Greg Nickels.

There’s an extra sensitivity when Ballmer – a man who was on our side in trying to save the Sonics, and then joined Chris Hansen in an attempt to bring them here from Sacramento last year – ends up chasing a franchise in a completely different city.

But to put him in the category of a villain, alongside those who played a role in our NBA-less situation, isn’t fair at all.

After all, although Chris Hansen would have to look elsewhere for a suitable co-owner for a future franchise, Ballmer presence in the NBA would ultimately be seen as a good thing for Seattle’s chances down the line. He’d be another influential pro-Seattle figure inside the Board of Governors.

I know it might seem bleak: but let’s wait for the NBA to finalize their new TV deal. Let’s see if new commissioner Adam Silver will eventually see the light to expansion, or if the Milwaukee Bucks can’t get that arena built in the next few years.

But don’t blame Ballmer for Seattle’s current situation – or for him seeking a team elsewhere.

And most of all - don’t expect the Clippers to be here anytime soon either.