Despite rumors to the contrary, the NBA is not expected to take up serious expansion talk for at least a couple of years, until both the new CBA and new television and streaming rights deals are in place. If the owners are going to open the doors, they are going to wait until they can do so at the highest possible price (with locked-in labor peace and higher television revenue).
The fans in Seattle have been more than patient waiting for the NBA to return, but they will have to wait a little longer (they will get a taste in October when the Trail Blazers will host the Clippers for a couple of preseason games). Seattle Kraken co-owner and CEO Tod Leiweke struck the right tone (from the NBA league office’s perspective) when asked about rumors of an NBA full-time return to Seattle by Fox Sports 13 in the city.
“I’m not going to address that [rumor]. There’s going to be a lot of rumors and innuendos. You know, we think the best thing that we can do is not ever get ahead of the league. They’ve got big issues coming: They’re in a CBA discussion, and they’ve got broadcast deals coming up. In due time, they will get to this. And in due time, we’re going to be well positioned…
“The hard work is done, building a world class arena. That’s why the team left. We now have that world class arena in place. It will stand the test of time. The building is phenomenal for basketball. And we’re super excited about the Clippers playing the Portland Trail Blazers here. And in fact, two games that are gonna play here, the first NBA game in our building will happen that first week in October – and we’re going to have a packed house and in our own Seattle way we will tell the world we are here. We are ready.”
Kraken majority owner David Bonderman also owns a piece of the Boston Celtics — the ties are built in.
“We are not discussing that at this time,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said of expansion during the NBA Finals. “As I said before, at some point, this league invariably will expand, but it’s not at this moment that we are discussing it.”
If the NBA looks at expansion in a few years, as is expected, Seattle will be at the top of the list to get a new team (Las Vegas is the frontrunner for a second team). But it remains an “if.” While there is some momentum behind the idea, it takes two-thirds of the owners to approve expansion, and the only way to convince that many owners to get on board is to prove to them that bringing these teams in will raise enough extra revenue for the league to offset the further division of the television money. The owners are going to treat this like a cold, hard business.
But when the expansion talks come, Seattle will be ready.