Prior to game one of the NBA Finals, Adam Silver quieted the rumors about NBA expansion.
The two markets with the best chance to land an NBA team are Seattle and Las Vegas. With expansion not being at the top of the agenda, both cities will have to wait (or snag the rare relocation team).
Silver also expanded on why expansion would not happen due to a dip in revenue after COVID-19.
“I know that was reported that when revenues were down we were looking more seriously at expansion,” Silver said. “I mean, it didn’t work exactly like that, largely because expansion is a multi-year process. So it wasn’t as if the pandemic came, we’re 40 percent down, we can quickly collect some expansion revenue.”
Of course, expansion fees would not immediately hit the pockets of the owners. It would take time for the NBA to identify cities, ownership groups and arenas before approving any expansion teams. Plus once teams are approved, expansion fees are paid in installments.
But Adam Silver gave a direct quote about the potential price of an expansion fee. For him to pretend that the NBA didn’t consider expansion to help make up for revenue drops seems misleading.
Would NBA owners really say no to their share of $6 billion because it might take two years to get the full payment?
According to Silver, the pandemic was not the right time to add new teams.
“So you know, yes, it’s true that we actually had some time while we were initially shut down and we were meeting more often with our teams to think a little bit more about it. But it seemed the consensus was certainly during a pandemic that wasn’t the right time to expand, but that we should continue to consider it,” Silver said.
The timeline for expansion is now murky. If now – after the NBA’s revenue dropped by billions – is not the right time to expand, then when is?
“The most important considerations for us when we look at expansion is, will it ultimately grow the pie? Meaning it’s potentially 30 more jobs if you expand with two teams. You expand the league’s footprint. How does that help us in varying ways, sort of increased support nationally? So we’ll continue to look at it. I mean, I’ve said this many times before, we’re certainly not suggesting we’re locked at 30 teams. I think at some point it will make sense to expand, but it’s just not at the top of the agenda right now,” Silver said.
Will Seattle, Vegas or any other city help grow the NBA. Neither city would help the NBA’s national TV deals. They could conceivably create new basketball fans in those cities to increase ticket and merchandise revenue. But both Seattle and Vegas have basketball fans already, so it isn’t like the Golden Knights helping to create brand new fans of the sport of hockey.
Barring relocation, it appears as though Vegas will be waiting awhile before the NBA comes to town.