PHOENIX (AP) -NBA commissioner David Stern warned Thursday that if the SuperSonics leave Seattle he sees no way the league would ever return to the city.
``I'd love to find a way to keep the team there,'' he said, ``because if the team moves, there's not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.''
At a news conference following his announcement that the 2009 All-Star game would be held in Phoenix, Stern criticized the city of Seattle and the Washington legislature for its handling of the issue of funding a replacement for Key Arena.
Stern repeated earlier criticism of the mayor and city council for promoting a measure, overwhelmingly passed by voters, that requires any funds to help build an arena earn money at the same rate as a treasury bill.
That measure simply means there is no way city money would ever be used on an arena project, Stern said.
He also lamented that the state legislature refused to even consider continuing a tax that helped fund Seattle's baseball and football stadiums.
``To have the speaker of the house say well, they just spend too much money on salaries anyway, so we need it for other things,'' Stern said, casts aspersions on the whole league's operations. ``We get the message. Hopefully, maybe cooler heads will prevail.''
He was referring to a remark by House Speaker Frank Chopp last February when funding for a new arena in the Seattle suburb of Renton was proposed.
``They ought to get their own financial house in order when their payroll is over $50 million for, what is it, 10 players? I think that's a little ridiculous,'' Chopp said at the time. ``They need to get their own financial house in order and if they did, they wouldn't have to ask for public help.''
Stern's comments were much tougher than the ones he made last June, when he said he believed the issue was ``just going to work itself out.''
SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett told the NBA last Friday that he plans to move the team to Oklahoma City. When that move would occur depends on outcome of litigation with the city over the franchise's Key Arena lease. The lease calls for the team to play in Seattle through the 2009-10 season, but Bennett wants out sooner.
As the issue becomes more and more contentious, Stern said he hopes ``that a white knight that hasn't existed before, somebody who has a building plan of how to keep the team there, will step forward.''
Seattle deputy mayor Tim Ceis said ``Mr. Stern ought to take some of his own advice and quit lobbing these things over the fence at us in press conferences ... and engage with us on ways to keep the team in Seattle.''
``We have a lease that is valid and enforceable and his owner is in litigation with us to try and break that lease,'' Ceis said. ``It appears that Mr. Stern is aiding and abetting that effort.''
Stern said at the news conference, however, that he would not take a position on the litigation.
``If he's serious in working with us to keep the team in Seattle, we would appreciate him coming here to work with us,'' Ceis said. ``Our door is open to Mr. Stern and his representatives and Mr. Bennett and his representatives to see what we can work out.''
The commissioner's comments came at the end of a news conference where he spent most of his time rehashing the one-game suspension of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for leaving the bench after San Antonio's Robert Horry slammed teammate Steve Nash into the scorer's table in last season's conference semifinals.
NBA rules require a one-game suspension for any player who leaves the bench in such incidents.
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AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.

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