Back when Sacramento was feverishly putting together a plan to keep their Kings from moving to Seattle (remember the Maloofs had a deal to sell the team to Chris Hansen’s Seattle group) a compromise often floated by fans and media was to put an expansion team in Seattle — both markets get a team. That never gained traction at the league office as most owners apparently did not want to further divide their revenue pie.
And it’s still a dead idea. At least for now.
Newly seated NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke with Brian Windhorst of ESPN and said that expansion to Seattle, or anywhere else, is not on the table right now.
“Seattle is a wonderful market. It would be very additive to the league to have a team there,” Silver said in an interview this week with ESPN. “But we’re not planning on expanding right now, so it’s not a function of price.”
Of course, price is the main issue here — it’s all about the money for the owners. As Mark Cuban laid out recently (quoted in that same story), the question the owners would consider is would their share of the expansion fee (whatever that would be) make it worth dividing up the television revenue pie a little bit more?
Silver needs to think about more than money, he needs to think about the good of the game.
“I and the owners will look at not only the dilution of economic opportunities with one more partner to divide national and international money but also dilution of talent,” Silver said. “Right now some are already making comments about the [Eastern Conference], so is it the ideal time to be adding another 15 or 30 players to the league?
“Ultimately I’m responsible for the financial and competitive health of a 30-team league, and while we made tremendous strides in the last collective bargaining agreement, we’re still not there yet. We don’t have 30 profitable teams in the NBA, and while we’ve made progress, there are still teams that aren’t competitive enough.”
Two things will keep any expansion plans on hold for at least a few more years. First, the NBA is in negotiations with its current partners (ESPN and Turner) as well as others about the next national television deal. Owners are not going to surrender any more television revenues until they see what kind of revenue bump they get with the next deal.
Also, remember that Milwaukee is in a substandard building (according to Silver) and it can move out come 2017. Bucks owner Herb Kohl is looking for investors to join him with the Bucks, but has said he only wants ones that would not move the team. Still, the league likes the idea of having Seattle and its deep pockets sitting out there as leverage (it worked in Sacramento, and the NFL has used Los Angeles in that way for more than a decade).
Seattle fans feel they were burned twice by the NBA, once when the Sonics/Thunder moved then with the Kings situation. How eager that ownership group and that market is to jump in and try to swipe another team remains to be seen.
But expansion is not coming to Seattle anytime soon.