A sitting team president of an NBA franchise told me it’s unlikely that the league’s owners would allow the Trail Blazers to relocate to Seattle after a potential sale. “That’s a no-go,” he said. The prevailing sentiment is that Seattle and Las Vegas have already been unofficially earmarked for NBA expansion and the current owners would prefer to avoid cannibalizing what would be a windfall of $6 billion in combined expansion fees.
The NBA has not added a new team in almost two decades, but the next round of expansion could be coming soon. During an appearance on 93.3 KJR, longtime columnist John Canzano reported that Seattle and Las Vegas have “already been earmarked” for expansion by the NBA. According to Canzano, the expansion is set to happen after the league’s current media rights deal expires in 2024.
Sources told The Spun last summer that a number of teams that were considering relocating were also “looking fondly” at Sin City, but it seems like they won’t be able to move there, because the league is already planning on giving Vegas a team of its own.
Mayor Bruce Harrell said Thursday he has weekly conversations to update him on the status of the NBA and its potential to bring a team back to Seattle. “So without revealing my ‘confidential sources,’ I’m very optimistic,” Harrell said. “But I will tell you almost on a weekly basis I’m getting updates on what’s happening in the league, where there’s some opportunities.”
With that in mind, Harrell said his optimism didn’t extend to news about a new team coming before the end of this year. “No, I’m not that optimistic by the end of the year,” he said. “But I will tell you that the league, and those that make decisions including the ownership base, they fully understand that this is a great market here. And so there are other dynamics looking at the collective bargaining agreement with the players and the owners, how they make decisions, there are some other factors at play that need to be stabilized first. But Seattle is very ripe and the league understands that and they know our passion, particularly my administration’s passion, for getting that team.”
The Ringer founder was discussing the NBA on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast when he dropped a bit of “intel” about league expansion and how LeBron James may play a role in it. “I have some intel,” Bill Simmons said. “I think the league is going to expand to Vegas and to Seattle. And I think the leading contender to get that Vegas team is going to be the Fenway Sports Group. They have Liverpool, they bought the [Pittsburgh] Penguins. They’ve been circling different NBA teams for a while. I think they looked at Minnesota. And I think they’re the leading contender for Vegas. I heard, combined, we’re talking $6.5-7 billion for the two teams.”
The most obvious connection here is that Simmons is naturally going to have connections with Fenway Sports Group, which also owns the Boston Red Sox. This is where LeBron comes in as well as James is a partner in FSG. So if they owned an NBA team, that would mean LeBron would be one of the team owners, though Simmons doesn’t spell that out for listeners. “If I had to bet on a LeBron scenario, it would be for him to be involved with whatever happens with that,” said Simmons. “Where he is the point man in that Vegas team. And I haven’t heard that mentioned. I don’t care if it gets aggregated because I think I’m right. I think that is scenario A for LeBron. He wants to be an owner. I think he wants to run one of these teams.”