To the surprise of no one, Adam Silver, in his first state of the league press conference Saturday as NBA commissioner, showed no inclination to offer expansion to Seattle or any market any time soon.
“It’s not on the top of my list,” Silver told reporters gathered for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, responding to a question about international expansion. “That goes for domestic expansion.”
Neither he nor his predecessor, the retired David Stern, have offered much hope of expansion since the NBA voted in May to keep the Kings in Sacramento instead of relocating to Seattle.
“I’m committed to studying it,” Silver said. “But I want to make sure we have a healthy, 30-team league. As powerful as the (collective bargaining agreement) has been, we still don’t have 30 teams that are financially viable.
“My job is to assure that 30 teams are healthy and competitive.”
The NBA has maintained that until a new TV rights-fee deal is negotiated that replaces the one expiring after the 2015-16 season, there is no urgency to further dilute the NBA revenue pie to add up to two more teams.
Negotiations are under way to improve the current deal, whose total value is worth $930 million. If that number were to go up substantially, it’s possible that there would be enough cash to go around to consider expansion — particularly after Seattle investor Chris Hansen upped the price in his bidding for the Kings.
The new owners of the Kings paid $525 million, which was less than the purported $625 million Hansen was willing to pay the team’s old owners. A reasonable guess at the moment would put an expansion fee of at least $600 million, meaning that each of the existing teams would get $20 million in a lump sum. A second team would make for $40 million.
Aside from expansion, the only other option to acquire a team is to buy and relocate an existing franchise. Hansen made it clear after the Kings fiasco that he was not interested in competing again against serious interests within the city to keep the team. The team has to be out of options.
The only city remotely vulnerable to predation is Milwaukee, where the Bucks are in a low-boil argument with local politicians about how to fund a replacement for the 25-year-old Bradley Center, one of the league’s oldest and smallest arenas. Seattle has assumed its usual position as stalking horse for supporters who want politicians to provide public funding to help secure the team.
Meanwhile, Hansen has been quiet. He attended the Seahawks Super Bowl triumph in New York and posted his congratulations on his sonicsarena.com site. His message read in part:
“After celebrating with my kids on the bus ride back to Manhattan, I headed out to a 12th man pub in NYC called Carlow East to celebrate with friends,” he wrote. “We sang and danced and hugged and cried. And for the first time in 35 years, I held my right index finger high in the air and belted out ‘We are the Champions’ in a packed bar full of Seattleites and just thought to myself . . . “We did it. We finally did it.”