LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  NBA commissioner, Adam Silver speaks during a press conference prior to the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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NBA franchise in Mexico City? Adam Silver: “It’s something that we’re going to look at.”

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Every season when the NBA plays games in Europe (regular season or exhibition), the question of an NBA team on that continent comes up. And each time it runs into one major obstacle: Travel. It would be difficult even to get an All-Star Game in overseas due to the logistics.

But what about Mexico City?

The NBA packed the house twice this week, once for the Mavericks to beat the Suns on Thursday, then for Spurs vs. Suns on Saturday. There is growing demand for the sport in Mexico, and the travel time issue goes away — it takes less time to fly to Mexico City out of Los Angeles than Chicago, and from New York it’s no worse than any other cross-country flight.

Adam Silver was asked about an All-Star Game in Mexico City at a press conference Saturday and — as is his way — said he was open to the idea.

“And as for an All-Star Game, again, that’s something we’ll look at as well. Again, we need to take a fresh look at the entire format and see what makes the most sense for a midseason break,” Silver said.

What about a franchise in Mexico City? Maybe just don’t expect it soon.

“The next step before we start talking about a franchise in Mexico City is to bring more games here, and we have this two regular-season games and whether we bring additional regular-season games next season or do some sort of tournament with several teams playing each other, that is something that we are looking at…

“… In terms of a franchise in Mexico, most likely Mexico City, it’s something that we’re going to look at,” Silver said. “This is an incredible market, well over 20 million people, the largest market in North America. While we have no immediate plans to expand in the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America, could potentially be very important to the league.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was down with a franchise in Mexico City, as he told ESPN.

“I would love a team down here. I think it would really help the sport,” Cuban said. “I would like to come back with the Mavericks, and every time that the NBA asks, we would love to be here.”

There have been issues with arenas in Mexico City in the past, but a new state-of-the-art Arena Ciudad de Mexico should change that.

We’re a long way off from a team in Mexico City. First, expansion does not appear on the horizon for the NBA (sorry Seattle), and no teams are close to moving. If a team does eventually relocate or the NBA expands, a host of domestic cities will be in line.

However, this could happen down the line. The NBA realizes it is the premiere basketball league in the world and it wants to grow that brand and rake in money from other countries. Think of it this way: Soccer fans in the USA will watch MLS games and have teams they love, but they also all have their favorite English Premier League team such as Chelsea or Machester United (or, in my case, a Championship level team in Newcastle that will be back up in the big show next season). Those leagues know they can make money off the fans here, the NBA is going to do the same.

Expect an All-Star Game before a team, but even that is going to be into the next decade (maybe well into it) before it becomes a reality.

PBT Extra: Despite Russell Westbrook’s triple-double pace, James Harden is MVP frontrunner

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The NBA’s MVP race is down to two men. Sure, you can make a case for Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James, some even want to throw Isaiah Thomas in the mix, but the best any of them is going to do is down the ballot in the final three slots.

The top two are reserved for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

In this PBT Extra, I discuss that while Westbrook is on pace for a historic season — averaging a triple-double of 31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists a game — it is Harden who is lifting his team to higher heights, and that very well could win the beard the award.

As Texas legislature considers it’s own “bathroom bill,” Adam Silver hints it could cost Houston All-Star Game

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks with the media during a press conference at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is co-existing with the start of Mardis Gras in New Orleans right now because of the North Carolina legislature.

When that state passed bill HB2, commonly called “the bathroom law,” the NBA owners and Adam Silver rightfully drew a line in the sand and said, in so many words, “we’re not bringing our All-Star Game to your city if that discriminatory law is on the books.” Of course, there was no way a Republican-controlled legislator and governor were going to cave on a red meat issue for their base like that one in an election year. So the NBA joined numerous businesses that pulled out of the state, as well as some musical acts planning concerts, and took their business elsewhere.

Right now, the Texas legislature is considering a similar bill.

Houston is considered a frontrunner to land the 2020 or 2021 All-Star Game, the NBA has opened the application process for those games and Houston is interested.

Could the bill kill Houston’s application before it even gets to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s desk? Silver is too smart a lawyer and negotiator to box himself in a corner and say there is no way Houston gets the All-Star Game if the law passes, but he made it clear it could.

“You know, I’m not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games,” Silver said at his annual All-Star Weekend press conference.

“I think the issue is we’d have to look at the specific legislation and understand its impact. I mean, I’m not ready to stand here today and say that that is the bright line test for whether or not we will play All-Star Games in Texas. It’s something we’re, of course, going to monitor very closely. What we’ve stated is that our values, our league-wide values in terms of equality and inclusion are paramount to this league and all the members of the NBA family, and I think those jurisdictions that are considering legislation similar to HB2 are on notice that that is an important factor for us. Those values are an important factor for us in deciding where we take a special event like an All-Star Game.”

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is headed to Los Angeles, and there is no concern that California is going to pass such a law. The 2019 game is officially unscheduled right now, but the NBA’s hope is to give it to Charlotte if HB2 is rolled back or eliminated. The uproar over the law is part of the reason the former governor Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid last November to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper.

“I have talked to Governor Cooper, the new Governor of North Carolina since he was elected, really to express our desire to return to North Carolina [in 2019] for our All-Star Game,” Silver said. “We have a team in North Carolina. We have a development team, soon to be a G-League team, in North Carolina. And 20 other teams will visit North Carolina this season. So we’d very much like to get back there.

“We had a discussion so I understood, certainly, his position, when he was running for office, was anti-HB2, the bill that ultimately led to our leaving. So I really was talking to him more to understand, from his standpoint, how he was hoping to move forward in terms of changing that law. My pain purpose of talking to him was to express our desire to return.”

The HB2 law covered a variety of issues, but what drew the most attention was that it restricts transgender bathroom use — you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born. The law also superseded anti-discrimination ordinances put in by the city of Charlotte and other North Carolina cities, laws that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. 

While any state has the right to put on the books laws it sees fit (within the framework of the Constitution), those actions can come with consequences. Just like Texas has the right to put the law on the books (not a sure thing, there has been pushback from the business community in the state), the NBA has the right to decide where it will do business. And bringing an All-Star Game to a city is a big economic boost — Charlotte lost an estimated $100 million in spending without the game, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Kevin Durant introduced as ‘OKC’s own’ (video)

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Kevin Durant attended the Three-Point Shootout, which was a perfect time to introduce the high-profile Warriors star.

It just happened in an incredibly awkward way.

Report: Former Magic teammates had ‘real issues’ with Serge Ibaka

Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka, of Congo, reacts after being called for a foul while defending a shot by Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 125-112. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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In trading Serge Ibaka to the Raptors, the Magic didn’t just get assets (Terrence Ross and a first-round pick) for a player who seemed increasingly likely to leave in unrestricted free agency this summer.

Orlando apparently also got rid of a headache.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Going from the winning Thunder to the lowly Magic probably didn’t bring out the best in Ibaka, and thats understandable, though not entirely excusable.

I also wonder how much of this was situational rather than anything Ibaka actively did wrong.

His presence forced Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green from their ideal position of power forward to small forward. That narrowed Mario Hezonja‘s path the the court. Any minutes Ibaka received at center cut into Bismack Biyombo‘s and Nikola Vucevic‘s playing time.

Both elements probably worked in concert. Ibaka disrupted the play of several teammates just by being there, which likely led to them giving him less benefit of the doubt about his attitude.

Don’t absolve Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, though. He built a roster overloaded with bigs. He asked for leadership from a newcomer who was third banana at best on his previous team and is entering a contract year. It’s not a huge shock this dynamic soured on and off the court.