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Saturday, November 15, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Basketball
Pro hoops finds home in Bellevue

By Bob Sherwin
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Another professional basketball team — the Bellevue Knighthawks — will join the crowded array of sports teams in this area next season.

The Continental Basketball Association, essentially a minor league for players moving up or on the way back from the NBA, has granted a franchise to a group headed by local businessman Michael Tuckman.

"It's been a long time coming for us. We're just thrilled to be in this," said Tuckman, a Seattle attorney who was the co-founder of KONG-TV.

The Knighthawks have reached a six-year agreement to play home games at Bellevue Community College. However, Tuckman said he hopes he doesn't fulfill that entire lease agreement. His group would like the team to play in a privately financed $60 million, 8,500-seat arena proposed for downtown Bellevue.

CBA at a glance


History

The Continental Basketball Association is in its 58th season of minor-league professional basketball.

Regular season

48 games from mid-November through early March.

Current teams

Rockford Lightning, Gary Steelheads, Great Lakes Storm, Dakota Wizards, Yakima Sun Kings, Idaho Stampede, Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Expansion teams

Bellevue Knighthawks and Muskegon, Mich., will join for the 2004-05 season.

Defending champion

Yakima.

NBA connections

The CBA had 75 former players on 2002-03 NBA training-camp rosters, and 39 made Opening Night rosters.

"We hope to put the sports arena next to new city hall and the Meydenbauer Center," Tuckman said. "The Eastside is a booming market of its own. I identified that years ago when I ran KONG.

"The population growth is coming on the Eastside. If you want to see a pro-sports event or concert you have to get on the bridge to Seattle. That's the reason why we proposed the sports arena."

After he sold his interest in KONG in March 2000 to Belo Broadcasting, Tuckman began plotting his Eastside vision. Through his company, Puget Sound Sports and Entertainment, LLC, he originally proposed a $155 million sports arena and performing-arts center. That since has been scaled down to an arena for just sports and concerts.

The City of Bellevue owns half of the 3.2-acre arena lot site and King County owns the other half. Tuckman's group is pressing Bellevue to buy the county share and his group would subsequently purchase the entire lot.

Tuckman's primary partners are Seattle businessman Peter Rettman and attorney Ron Spitzer. In addition, the Puget Sound Sports and Entertainment has 13 partners.

"We're excited about the projects," he said. "We hope they (Knighthawks) can be the focal point of the Eastside community."

The CBA has played for 57 years in a variety of cities, although it fell on hard times three years ago when former NBA star Isiah Thomas sold his interest in the league. But the league was patched together the following season with seven teams that included the Yakima Sun Kings.

The six other teams in the league are the Idaho Stampede based in Boise; Great Lakes Storm in Birch Run, Mich.; Dakota Wizards in Bismarck, N.D.; Gary (Ind.) Steelheads; Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce; and Rockford (Ill.) Lightning. Muskegon, Mich., and Bellevue will join the league next season to form a nine-team league.

Among the players in the league, which opened the season last night, are Roy Tarpley (Sioux Falls), the former NBA star trying to come back from drug suspensions; Jimmy King (Great Lakes), one of the Fab Five for the Michigan teams of the 1990s; Roberto Bergersen (Idaho), the former Washington and Boise State star; and Tom Coverdale (Rockford), a former standout at Indiana.

Bob Sherwin: 206-464-8286 or bsherwin@seattletimes.com


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