Hurling a full-court shot at the city's NBA dreams, a M…

More on NBA Expansion

Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21st District, sponsored the non-binding measure and said whether or not the league is looking to expand currently his measure shows potential investors the city is ready to negotiate. At his desk he sat an old Kentucky Colonels basketball from the American Basketball Association that was signed by former players during the nearly hour-long hearing.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said this week that the league has no plans and is not in discussions on the topic. “We have no plans for expansion at this time," Bass said Thursday, "and there is no discussion of any teams relocating right now."
Lunsford said that he’d heard rumblings recently about local interest in an NBA team, but he’s heard nothing credible about serious investors. Only a handful of people could handle the price tag. More than that, it would be difficult to make a case for Louisville having the per capita income and size to sustain a franchise. “This is not a game for anybody with short pants,” Lunsford said. “It would take the kind of” cash that only a few in town have – the likes of Papa John Schnatter or W. Kent Taylor, who founded Texas Roadhouse.
Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson submitted a revised version of his NBA resolution on Thursday after fellow members and other groups abandoned the initial proposal because it was based on anonymous sources. The new measure says Louisville has a longstanding love affair with basketball that would greatly benefit from a professional franchise. Johnson’s original proposal had said the league was preparing to proceed with expansion based on unnamed sources.
After pulling the original resolution, Johnson later said a sports website that claimed NBA and city officials met last week to discuss potential league expansion was his source. But several local officials, including Mayor Greg Fischer's office, have rebuffed that report.
Cuban also said he doesn’t believe the NBA is close to putting an expansion team in Seattle or elsewhere in the foreseeable future. And he doesn’t expect any franchise moves. “There has to be a [very] good reason, and no one’s given it to us yet,” Cuban said. “Maybe if someone wrote a $5 billion check. But I don’t see teams moving. This isn’t the NFL.”
Despite assurances from the National Basketball Association that there are no plans to expand or relocate to Louisville, a Metro Council resolution filed Monday claims the professional basketball league is preparing to do so. Councilman Dan Johnson sponsored the non-binding measure, which says the city has KFC Yum! Center is able to accommodate a franchise and that residents would welcome such a decision. Johnson's proposal also says the NBA "has indicated they are prepared to proceed with expansion teams."
To the extent that a Louisville franchise would encroach on the territory of the Indiana Pacers and their league-approved 150-mile marketing radius, that risk might seem excessive to Herbert Simon, the NBA’s longest-tenured owner. An NBA source said Thursday that Simon would surely fight expansion in Louisville or Cincinnati, and that his influence on his fellow owners could be hard to overcome. A Pacers spokesman referred questions along those lines to the league.
Benton Strong, a spokesman for Murray, emphatically denied a widely circulated online basketball website posting Monday that stated Murray had been “ducking” calls from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver over much of the past year. “There is absolutely no truth to that whatsoever,’’ said Strong, who, with Murray, was en route to a mayors’ conference in Washington, D.C. when informed of the post. “If anything, we are trying to get together on a call with both commissioners to keep the lines of communication open.’’
Louisville leaders, though, say they're in favor of the pro-team, but aren't anticipating any big moves in the near future. “We would welcome the private investment to our city, it would be good for our city, but we'll wait and sit back and see if someone contacts local officials,” said Yates.
For example, the Memphis Grizzlies were a tremendous money loser up until a few years ago. They were not alone. Most insiders that talk about this topic say it takes a franchise roughly ten years to really get on solid footing in a new market, and neither the new labor deal or the current TV deal will be around in ten years. Many of the more frugal owners understand that taking in an expansion fee, even one that could cross the billion-dollar mark, is basically a loan against future earnings. That does not mean there are not some owners that would have interest in a cash infusion while the game is growing and revenue is pouring in. Expansion fees would be divided among the current owners, so a billion-dollar fee would equate to more than $33 million to each owner. That’s not an insignificant number.
"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.
For Seattle, the only realistic choice is expansion. The reasons for not expanding now are varied, and logical. There’s no reason for owners to split an exploding financial pie further. The NBA is in a boom period, with market size not nearly as important as it used to be. The league does not need to have a team in Seattle, the country’s 14th largest TV market. (The success of the Thunder in Oklahoma City, ironically -- and, sadly for Seattle -- only magnifies the point.)
Seattle was a strong NBA market for many years, going crazy for the Sonics of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, which reached The Finals in 1996. From 1995-99, the Sonics basically sold out Key Arena, and they never averaged less than 14,300 fans from 1991-2007, their next-to-last season in town. The city and surrounding area has a rich tradition of producing NBA talent, including current players Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, Marvin Williams, Spencer Hawes, Rodney Stuckey and Aaron Brooks. “Seattle is a far better market than at least 10 NBA cities,” said a very high ranking executive of one of the league’s 29 teams last week.
The other night I reached out to a lot of media and league people in my contact list and simply asked, "Is expansion on the table?" I had 57 people respond, 14 of those either did not comment or said they didn’t know. That leaves 43 other responses. Some that really jumped out were: "With no arena, you’d get 14, maybe 16, votes toward expansion." "I’ve heard there are 14 definitely for it." "It [expansion] is definitely on the table and being discussed." "There are two who are fully no, everyone else can have their mind changed."
Those would be the four most pessimistic responses that I got. The rest were definitely a lot more, well I got goosebumps and it made me giddy. A couple of my favorites: "If Seattle had a new building, they would pass expansion." "An hour after Seattle approves their arena, they’d have an offer in hand."
I’ve heard that once the CBA is finished, the expansion bidding could be announced as soon as December or as late as the All-Star Game in February. There are going to be numerous other cities competing with Seattle to get the expansion franchises as well. I do not know if there is just going to be one slot or two. Other cities I’ve heard that are going to be making a play for expansion are Louisville (they have all their affairs in order and ready to go), Pittsburgh, Omaha, Las Vegas, Vancouver, BC, and Mexico City. Kansas City and St. Louis have been brought up as well, but I can’t confirm the validity of their interest.
The topic of expansion was brought up by a questioner, who was wondering about the viability of a team ever returning to Seattle, which was the home of the Supersonics from 1967 until 2008 before moving to Oklahoma City and changing the name to the Thunder. Silver was quite candid in his response, quickly shutting down the thought of expansion due to financial reasons for the league's owners as well as from a business standpoint concerning the NBA as a whole. "The issue with the NBA right now, is every team in essence, can have a global following," Silver said. "The need to expand the footprint by physically putting another team in a market becomes less important from a league standpoint. And therefore, the way the owners see expansion at the moment is really the equivalent of selling equity in the (league).
"We are 30 partners right now. Thirty teams. Each of those teams own 1/30th of all the global opportunities of the NBA. So the issue becomes, if you expand, do you want to sell one of those interests off to a new group of partners? One reason to do it of course, is that if its additive. And no doubt, Seattle is a great market. At the moment, like for me as successful as the league is right now, we (are) not in the position, putting even aside profitability, where all 30 teams are must-see experiences. That's not a secret."
There had been speculation that when Silver took over in February 2014, his primary goal was to expand the NBA into Europe, likely London or Paris. “We are not actively taking steps to bring a franchise to Europe or to expand to Europe. It’s something that we’ve looked at over the years,” Silver said. “It just doesn’t feel like the time is ripe right now, especially given what’s going on . . . with the Euroleague and FIBA. We think the best place for the NBA right now is to showcase an NBA game here in London, to play our preseason games here, and to work on a grass-roots level to develop the game. But at the current time, we are not looking at franchises in Europe.”
Q: It’s no secret that the NBA want a franchise in Europe, how do the players feel about that? Nikola Vucevic: Obviously it would be nice for us European players if you had a franchise in Europe but I think it would be hard to do because of the travel. It takes a long time to get from Europe to the US and also the time difference would really affect the players as well so I don’t know if it’s doable. Obviously it would be great for the NBA to have a European franchise but I don’t know how it would work out but I don’t know if it’s doable for geography reasons.
Nobody is throwing around the E word yet. “We don’t have specific plans to expand to Mexico City in the near future,” says NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Security is a concern. In 1997, the Houston Rockets traveled to Mexico City for a regular season game. When they arrived, they were warned: Be wary of traveling to certain areas because kidnappings were rampant. In a briefing, Rockets players were told that the U.S. had recently set up an office in Mexico to deal with the kidnapping of U.S. citizens. That day the top official from that office was kidnapped. Things haven’t improved much. There were more than 100,000 kidnappings in 2012, according to the U.S. State Department, and a recent survey found that total crimes in 2014 (33.1) were up nearly 50% from 2011.
Storyline: NBA Expansion
More HoopsHype Rumors
September 27, 2021 | 7:28 pm EDT Update
September 27, 2021 | 6:33 pm EDT Update