Seattle mayor spoke with NBA, “optimistic” about expansion

by Kevin Nesgoda

The mayor of Seattle has spoken to the NBA, believes expansion is coming, and is “pretty optimistic” about Seattle chances to land a new Sonics team.

In an exclusive with KING5-TV’s Chris Daniels, Mayor Jenny Durkan revealed she most recently spoke with NBA commissioner Adam Silver prior to Christmas following his remarks on the league analyzing the prospect of expansion.

She also admitted she’s had regular contact with Silver, most recently attending NBA games with him while in New Orleans for a conference.

Given the economics of the NBA impacted by the COVID pandemic, Durkan believes that talk of expansion is real and likely to occur faster than most think.

“I think [Silver]’s not going to get ahead of the (owners),” Durkan said. “They’ve got to make the decision there first. I think that him saying it publicly means that they are very seriously considering it, and if you look at how sports moves, I don’t think it’s going to be a long multiyear process. I think it can be a shorter process than that, but it might be, you know, more than one year. I think first you got to get the ownership group in line. And they’ve got to decide what an expansion team price could look like. And how they choose the cities that goes to. As we know, there’s also teams that are underperforming in the NBA, so they have to look at the economics in those cities and make sure that the teams they have are competitive. So they’ve got to look top to bottom as they’re coming out of COVID and went through a very different season than they had before.”

She stresses that Silver doesn’t want to get ahead of the team owners he works for, and that cities interested in a team can’t get ahead of them either. This echoes a mantra that Tim Leiweke, CEO of the developer of Seattle’s new arena Oak View Group, has long publicly expressed.

Leiweke has recently stated that the arena group and potential team ownership are looking to focus this year on bringing the NBA back to Seattle. They will be “100% ready” if and when the NBA presents the opportunity.

Seattle is seen by most as a lock for one of potentially two expansion teams, if and when the NBA decides to move forward. Recent scuttlebutt is that the league is eyeing an expansion fee of $2.5 billion per team.

Durkan feels Seattle’s economic position, the NBA connections of both the arena group and the ownership group for the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken, and Seattle’s history with the NBA puts the city in good stead.

“I think it was a very positive conversation [with Silver],” Durkan said. “I think he has said publicly that Seattle is at the top of the list. Look, if there’s basketball karma, we’ll get the Sonics. If there’s economics involved, we’ll get the Sonics. If there’s just smart, what’s the best city in America, we’ll get the Sonics. So, I’m pretty optimistic.”

Check out KING5 for more, including thoughts on the potential of a Jeff Bezos involvement in team ownership.

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