NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says Seattle will be at the top of the list when the NBA seriously considers expansion.
On Thursday, speaking with NBA vet Jalen Rose on his podcast “Renaissance Man“, Silver was asked which city he would like to see next host an NBA team. His response is a nice Christmas stocking stuffer for Sonics fans in Seattle.
“I’m going to say Seattle, because I was in this league for many years while Seattle still had a team. And we were all sad… It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to that team leaving. And it still remains a great market.”
Silver continued, “And so, there’s no doubt, when we do turn back to expansion, which we invariably will one day, that Seattle will be at the top of the list.”
While the ultimate gift would be to have the expansion granted so the new Sonics could tip off in the soon-to-open Climate Pledge Arena in the next two or three years, it’s a welcome message for the league, through Silver, to acknowledge the appetite to make Seattle super again.
This adds to a week of renewed public talk about exploring expansion in the NBA. On Monday, during his preseason press availability ahead of the just-started 2020-21 season, Silver stated that while it’s not “on the front burner,” the league is analyzing the possibility of expansion.
“I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point,” ESPN reported. “I’d say it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”
The league’s official position is they are still not considering expansion. [Ed: until they are, of course.] The effect of the pandemic on various NBA teams might be forcing their hand, though. It’s said expansion usually occurs following recessions when the league needs to inject cash as a means to continue growth. Certainly, a potential $1-2 billion (or more) expansion fee each from likely two teams being added has got to seem appealing to team owners amid significant financial losses.
For their part, Tim Leiweke of Oak View Group, the developer of Climate Pledge Arena, says they are ready when the NBA takes steps to formalize an expansion process.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times points out that “nearly $50 million of the arena’s [$930 million] cost has gone toward outfitting it with particulars the NBA insists upon.” These include things like locker rooms specifically for the NBA players and officials, and facilities for NBA team training staffs.
Speaking to Baker, Leiweke stated, “We’re not anticipating anything. The league knows the leadership on our side — from ownership to our management of the building — are NBA ‘family’ members. They’re well aware of that. They’re well aware of the steps we’ve taken so that if and when they come knocking on our door, our building will be 100% ready.”
David Bonderman, majority owner of the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken, is a minority owner of the Boston Celtics. He has expressed his interest in bringing a new SuperSonics club back to Seattle.
Kraken minority owners Chris and Ted Ackerley are sons of one-time Sonics owner Barry Ackerley. Speculation has been that, in addition to being sports fans, the Ackerleys joined the NHL ownership for the potential to be part of an NBA ownership group as well.
Regarding the economics of an NBA club playing in the new arena, Leiweke added, “Everything we’ve done — from naming rights, to sponsors, to suites, to opera boxes, to club seats — we have built in to protect the economics of the NBA team. And that’s critical — to maximize the revenue streams. So, we’ve done that as well.”
Sonics fans, by and large, remain skeptical of expansion until it happens. But it’s nice to get a Christmas card all the same.