“In terms of a franchise in Mexico City, it’s something that we’re going to look at,” Silver said. “This is a competitive market, well over 20 million people. While we have no immediate plans to expand the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America could potentially be very important to the league. You clearly have a beautiful state-of-the-art arena here, and you can tell by ticket sales that we have the interest. So that’s something that we will continue to look at.”
Silver mentioned that one of the most important factors in bringing the NBA abroad is whether the host city’s venue can support the teams. Silver pointed to Arena Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico as being a “state-of-the-art facility” that could host a D-League team in the future. Raul Zarraga, managing director of NBA Mexico said Thursday that it’s time for the country to start developing NBA-caliber players and the league needs “to work more closely with local authorities to see how we can grow the basketball professionally to find new players that in the future can play in the NBA. Silver agreed, saying the plan now is to start an NBA development academy in Mexico.
The Suns play the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday from Ciudad de Mexico arena, an enormous venue with nine different levels and seating capacity of 22,300, followed by a sold-out contest against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday. The latter will be a tremendous experience for a very young basketball team. “This is very exciting,” said Suns veteran Leandro Barbosa, who hails from Brazil. “This is my second time in Mexico, and you can feel the excitement. They’re my people. I feel like I’m home here.”
The NBA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of staging games in Mexico. Nineteen of the previous 22 contests were exhibition games, with no impact on the official standings. There was also an unfortunate incident in 2014, when a game between the Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves was cancelled after a generator malfunction caused acrid smoke to fill the arena. This time, the league has made its biggest investment yet. All three teams are from Texas and Arizona, states that share a border with Mexico. The Suns took part in a NBA Cares event on Tuesday, hosting a group of 60 kids, including 40 from the Special Olympics in Mexico City. Head coach Earl Watson said he hopes the Suns return every January, even if he struggles with the native language. “My mother’s first language was Spanish, and she said she tried to teach me,” Watson said. “But every time she tried, I would run off with my basketball.”