Steve Ballmer says not to expect NBA return to Seattle for a couple of years, at least

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Seattle still has great basketball fans. Just ask Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, and the other players who have come out of that area — the city loves hoops.

And it wants an NBA team again.

But that’s not going to happen for a few years, at least, according to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who lived a large part of his life in Seattle (and was part of the group trying to buy the Kings and move them up there a few years back). Ballmer is in Seattle for the Geek Wire Sports Technology Summit and was asked by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times if an NBA team could be on its way to Seattle soon (hat tip Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie):

“It’s just not likely to happen,” Ballmer told those attending the conference. “There has been no discussion about expansion since I have been involved with the league. So, I don’t think that will happen. The league has really moved to favor teams staying in their current markets. You’d have to find a team that’s at the end of their (arena) lease, where it looks hard to build an arena and where they’ve tried really hard to build an arena.

“And you’d have to show that an arena can get built in Seattle,” he added. “Because unlike most other cities that build an arena before they have a team, I don’t think an arena is going to get built here before a team comes here unless it gets done in the context of hockey.”

A couple of years may be optimistic, Ballmer was likely just being nice. Even with the explosive growth in television revenue, there seems to be no appetite among the owners to divide that revenue pie up into thinner slices. Balmer is far from the only one to say this, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has echoed the point recently as well. Expansion remains off the table for now.

Seattle’s best hope for a while may have been the Milwaukee Bucks, but after threats of leaving the state government caved and pitched in $250 million, making the deal possible. The Bucks broke ground on their new arena downtown last month. Nothing imminent is on the horizon with teams that are likely to consider a move.

Sorry Seattle.

And don’t ask about Ballmer’s Clippers.

“The Clippers are not going anywhere — ever,” he said. “I will die owning the L.A. Clippers.”