SEATTLE – The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers will play an NBA preseason game at Climate Pledge Arena on October 3, marking the NBA’s first presence at the new Seattle Center arena.
The game is titled Rain City Showcase and features two teams with ties to Seattle. Steve Ballmer – the former CEO of Microsoft – owns the Clippers while Jody Allen – the sister of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – remains in charge of the Trail Blazers.
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle with the Blazers for this game and preview what we think will be a very special season,” said Gillian Zucker, president of business operations for the Clippers.
The Golden State Warriors hosted the Sacramento Kings for a preseason game at KeyArena on October 5, 2018 which served as the last event at the old arena before its renovation. While the roof of the arena needed to be preserved due to its historic status, everything under the roof was rebuilt from scratch to create the new facility.
While home to the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Storm, the building also hosted Seattle University basketball games and a college basketball game between Gonzaga and Alabama last December.
“It’s a great hockey building, but really it could be a spectacular basketball facility first and foremost,” said Kraken team president Tod Leiweke. “We’ve kept the seating low. The sightlines are spectacular. We’ve compared this building to basketball arenas and it’s way up there. This building holds up. We’ve had Storm games here, at Seattle University. We had Gonzaga-Alabama. Basketball shows super, super well here.”
RELATED: Construction of new arena in Las Vegas raises hopes of NBA expansion in Seattle
Zucker explained that the idea for the game came from Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue and Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups wanting to play a preseason game against each other. Billups was an assistant coach under Lue with the Clippers before getting the Blazers head coaching job. The two are close friends and have played much of their careers against each other.
“Ty really wanted to go up against Chauncey in preseason,” Zucker said. “So here we are, tickets are on sale, fans are getting excited, our entire organization is looking forward to this first Rain City Showcase.
Despite losing to the Supersonics in a move to Oklahoma City in 2008, the Seattle area has remained a basketball hotbed. Three Seattle-area high school products were selected in the first round of the NBA draft last week: Paolo Banchero (O’Dea), Tari Eason (Federal Way) and MarJon Beauchamp (Nathan Hale, Garfield, Rainier Beach ) were all selected. the first 24 draft picks with Banchero becoming No. 1 in the Orlando Magic.
“It’s a basketball city. It really is,” said Jamal Crawford, who played for both the Clippers and Blazers during his 21-year NBA career. “I think a lot of that comes from our generation watching the Sonics and now the younger generation watching us. And we’ve always been there. You can touch us. You can say ‘oh here’s Jamal, here’s Zach (LaVine) and they’ll help me with advice, they’ll go to the gym with me. That’s what makes our community special.”
Get news alerts in the FREE FOX 13 Seattle app. To download for Apple iOS or Android. And sign up for BREAKING NEWS emails delivered straight to your inbox.
Leiweke wouldn’t comment much on the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle in the future. Leiweke and his brother Tim, who is the CEO of the Oak View group that built the Climate Pledge Arena, have been optimistic about the league’s chances of eventually returning to the Seattle area.
“We haven’t talked about it today and we’re not going to talk about it because we’re never going to go past the league,” Leiweke said. “But this market speaks for itself. It’s a big basketball market. Not just at the top of the pyramid, but all the way through.”
During the NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver denied rumors that the league was planning to expand in the near future.
“We’re not discussing that right now,” Silver said. “As I said before, at some point this league will invariably grow, but not right now.”
The general belief is that the league will consider expansion once it establishes a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association and reaches new broadcast rights agreements. The current ABC is set to expire after the 2023-24 season and the new broadcast rights would be for the 2025 season.
Seattle and Las Vegas, where a new arena is expected to be built by the Oak View Group and open in 2026, would be major favorites for expansions.
“We pay attention to it, but we feel good where we are,” Leiweke said of Silver’s comments. “We feel good about this building. We feel good about how the public has reacted to this building. We love the idea that this is the most sustainable arena in the world and that is why events are going to come our way, like this event. This event is probably a bit more special for people in town. I hope I can sit next to Lenny Wilkins during the game. Like, what a thrill this would be. I love the game, and it was wonderful to see people today who were clearly moved by the emotion of this game coming here.”
For now, the NBA will get its first look at games in Seattle’s new arena this fall.
“I’m so excited. It galvanizes the city to have this electricity, especially for the younger generations, to see NBA basketball in their city, there’s no such feeling. On October 3, I’ll be there,” Crawford said.