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NBA expansion returning Sonics to Seattle? Not anytime soon

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It was 10 years ago that the Seattle Supersonics were no more, moving to Oklahoma City and becoming the Thunder. The why still stings in Seattle. It’s been 10 painful years for the loyal sports fans of Seattle — I was there this summer and you can still buy Sonics gear plenty of places.

Friday night the Warriors and Kings will play in Seattle, an NBA preseason game. It has sparked memories of the green and yellow jerseys and Shawn Kemp thunderous dunks.

It’s also sparked a big question: When will an NBA expand and return to Seattle?

Not anytime soon, unfortunately for Seattle fans. That’s despite the large and wealthy market, and the recent approval by the city to upgrade Key Arena to modern standards (where an NHL expansion team is slated to move in). When I’ve asked about the topic in recent years, the reaction from league officials has largely been “there’s not much of an appetite for expansion among the owners” (and remember it takes a two-thirds vote from them to okay expansion). Brian Windhorst was even more concrete in an article for ESPN.

The NBA doesn’t have expansion anywhere on its timeline, and Seattle’s arena developments weren’t discussed for a moment at the fall board of governors meeting two weeks ago, league sources said. Some prospective ownership groups that have met with NBA officials have been told expansion may not happen until 2025 at the earliest, when a new TV deal can be negotiated, sources said.

Beyond that, the complexities of the so-called New Arena at Seattle Center, the building’s working title, may make it challenging for Seattle to compete for a team if and when the time comes. The situation could even require Seattle to have a second new arena with the NBA team as the main tenant if the city wants to outbid other markets to attract a team, multiple ownership sources told ESPN.

That’s seven years at the very least, and probably longer than that, before expansion is any kind of reality. By then, the broadcast landscape will have shifted even more — it’s moving fast to streaming services now — and what that new broadcast deal will look like, and how much money will be involved, are unknowns. Which is to say, 2025 is no lock for expansion, if it happens at all.

It is possible that before then an NBA team from a smaller market with a short lease will go up for sale, be purchased and moved into a building in Seattle (Key Arena or a new one). That almost happened with the Sacramento Kings (it was now Commissioner Adam Silver who fought hard to find a local owner and get a new arena built in Sacramento to keep the team in California.) However, right now there is no team that fits the criteria, no teams likely to be on the move. (There are a lot of eyes on the New Orleans Pelicans since the passing of owner Tom Benson, his wife Gayle now runs the team and the NFL’s Saints. She has said she has no plans to sell the Pelicans, but that could change. They have a lease at the Smoothie King Center that runs through 2024.)

All of this is not great news for hoops-starved Seattle fans. There is a desire in the NBA’s league office to see a team back in Seattle… someday. But it’s going to be many years before anything starts to take real shape.




Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.