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Clippers to host Trail Blazers for NBA preseason game at Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena in October

Posted on June 30, 2022

The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers will play an NBA preseason game at Climate Pledge Arena on October 3, which represents the NBA's first presence in the new arena at Seattle Center.

The game is being titled the Rain City Showcase and features two teams with Seattle ties. Steve Ballmer – the former CEO of Microsoft – owns the Clippers while Jody Allen – the sister of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – remains at the helm of the Trail Blazers.

"We are absolutely thrilled to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle along with the Blazers for this game and tip off what we believe will be a very special season," Clippers president of business operations Gillian Zucker said.

The Golden State Warriors hosted the Sacramento Kings for a preseason game at KeyArena on Oct. 5, 2018 that served as the final event in the old arena before its renovation. While the roof of the arena had to be preserved due to its historical status, everything under the roof was rebuilt from the ground up to create the new facility.

While serving as the home for the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Storm, the building has also played host to Seattle University basketball games and a showcase college basketball matchup between Gonzaga and Alabama last December.

"This is a great hockey building, but in fact it might – first and foremost – be a spectacular basketball facility," Kraken team president Tod Leiweke said. "We kept the seat count low. The sight lines are spectacular. We compared this building to the basketball-only arenas and it's right up there at the top. This building holds its own. We've had Storm games here, Seattle University. We had Gonzaga-Alabama. Basketball shows super, super well here."

Zucker explained 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 played much of their careers against each other.

"Ty really wanted to match wits in the preseason with Chauncey," Zucker said. "So here we are, tickets going on sale, fans getting fired up, our entire organization looking forward to participating in this first Rain City Showcase.

Despite losing 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 taken in the first 24 picks of the draft with Banchero going No. 1 to the Orlando Magic.

"It's a basketball town. It really is," said Jamal Crawford said, 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 is watching us. And we've always been here. You can touch us. You can say ‘oh there goes Jamal, there goes Zach (LaVine) and they’ll help with advice, they'll get in the gym with me.' That's what makes our community special."

Leiweke wouldn't comment much about 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 which built Climate Pledge Arena, have been bullish on the chances of the league eventually returning to the Seattle area.

"We didn't talk about it today and we're not going to talk about it because we're never going to get in front of the league," Leiweke said. "But this market speaks for itself. It's a great basketball market. Not just at the very top of the pyramid, but all the way through."

During the NBA finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver denied rumors the league is looking to expand in the near future.

"We are not discussing that at this time," Silver said. "As I’ve said before, at some point, this league will invariably expand, just not at this moment."

The wide belief is that the league will consider expansion once they get a new collective bargaining agreement in place with the NBA Players' Association, and lock in new broadcast rights deals. The current CBA is set to expire after the 2023-24 season and new broadcast rights would be for the 2025 season.

Seattle and Las Vegas, where a new arena is set to be built by the Oak View Group and set to open in 2026, would be the top frontrunners for expansions.

"We pay attention to that but we feel good about where we are," Leiweke said of the comments made by Silver. "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's why events are going to come our way, like this event. This event is probably a little more special to people in the city. I hope to get to sit next to Lenny Wilkins during the game. Like, what a thrill that would be. I love the game, and it was wonderful seeing people today who clearly were stirred up with the emotion about this game coming here."

For now, the NBA will get its first glimpse of games in the new arena in Seattle this fall.

"I'm so excited. It galvanizes the city having that electricity, especially for the younger generations, seeing NBA basketball in their city, there's no feeling like it. October 3, I'll be there," Crawford said.