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Sonics Rising Roundtable: Adam Silver's Thoughts on Expansion

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Last week NBA commissioner Adam Silver was interviewed by Coach K his on Basketball and Beyond radio show on SiriusXM. Here are our thoughts.

Edited by Matt Tucker

NBA commissioner Adam Silver gives some insight on expansion.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver gives some insight on expansion.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Expansion.

You know it all too well by now. As the NHL makes compelling moves in Las Vegas with an eye toward adding teams, the NBA remains standoffish.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski recently had NBA commissioner Adam Silver on his renowned Basketball and Beyond with Coach K SiriusXM show. Silver shared some interesting thoughts on the idea of expansion. Interesting enough for us to rattle off our opinions in great detail.

Now this isn't a typical roundtable, but you may have seen others that I have done like it (The Cleveland Cavaliers issues and Pistons/Dwight Howard problems). These are (largely) unfiltered discussions. Enjoy.

Dontae DelgadoHere's the original article.

Kevin Nesgoda: I don't think the NBA should ever expand into Europe. Their best move would be to slowly start picking off FIBA teams or have them start working into a deal where Barcelona moves from FIBA along withHamburg, London, etc.

Chris Meirose: The logistics of a NBA Europe are a mess. Hot mess. Competing with existing leagues (FIBA).

Dontae: When I first heard it I thought "expansion" included North America.

Chris: So going the route of partnering or buying out FIBA seems like the best direction.

Matt Tucker: Creating a division that's supposed to somehow regularly compete with the American teams seems a bit silly. The smarter option would be to sponsor an existing league, with the intention of eventually purchasing it to operate within Europe exclusively. They could do, perhaps, a tour with two or three American teams playing within the league. Or they can look to have the European champion, or two teams, or four teams, compete in a tournament with original recipe NBA teams.

Lucas Shannon: I agree. I think expansion into Europe would be a disaster. Buying out FIBA teams would be interesting but I'm not sure how that would work either.

Chris: Outside of that, there are a ton of logistical issues to operating a NBA Europe. They'd really need to be a standalone division for the most part.

Dontae: I think it's foolish. A logistical nightmare scenario. Even including them as a division seems foolish. Unless they can integrate it with the current league system, then it's a mistake.

Matt: Logistically, it makes no sense to involve in regular NBA season operations.

Chris: And while it is just my opinion, expansion outside of the USA boarder seems a bit ridiculous with places like Seattle/Vegas/Louisville etc. wanting teams.

Dontae: Right, Chris. I'd prefer the focus be on D-League development or a scenario like NFL Europe.

Mike Baker: It's just part of talking up the NBA brand after signing a new broadcast rights deal in Europe and Africa.

Kevin: If you do a full NBA Euroleague, get 20-24 in the major markets, etc. Have the winner of NBA Euro face the winner of the NBA Finals to determine an almost true World Champion.

Matt: Yeah, I would really to examine the footprint of the league in North America and deal with expansion there.

Chris: You could throw other markets like Vancouver, Hawaii, Omaha, and Kansas City in there too.

Dontae: Let's flesh out the US in the next 10 years first. 32 teams and a D-League affiliate for each team, with full development in place. I like Kevin's idea too.

Kevin: Seattle, Louisville, Vegas, KC, Omaha, and Vancouver B.C. should all be looked at first.

Dontae: I like a real World Champion. Especially if they can take over FIBA.

Lucas: A standalone division would make a bit more sense, but still seems a little ridiculous to me, frankly. I agree with Dontae, further developing the D-League should be of much higher priority for the league.

Kevin: Thanks, Dontae. I've been on a kick for a true World Champion for a decade. Eventually East vs. West.

Matt: Kevin, Yep. Have a 10-team league in Europe and one in Asia. Then have the champions, or a certain number of teams, play the NBA champion and possibly the conference finals teams for a World Championship.

Lucas: Okay, I have to admit. Kevin's idea does sound cool. Do the two brackets just meet in the middle to play the "true" Finals? Like in Iceland?

Dontae: So, in that case Matt: Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Australia, etc. One champion per continent or more like regional champions, then an eight or four team tournament?

Chris: I think Asia could field a reasonable team.  With Russian leagues and Chinese leagues, you might get something going.

Mike: They can't talk about North America until they resolve the bottom 1/3 of the league.

Matt: At this point, whether there's truth to 10 teams out of 30 not being profitable, everyone's quite aware that those factors are going to change within the next couple of years. Honestly, if there are still teams that aren't profitable after the big influx of media money, it's time to cut bait and either contract or relocate those teams to better markets.

Mike: Well, Grantland mentioned eight or nine. A few were money losers after profit sharing.

Dontae: The profitable part irritates me. It's like he's planting seeds to combat what [NBPA Executive Director] Michele Roberts has previously said.

Chris: Maybe [Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail] Prokhorov would buy a Russian team then. Could he own both?!?

Matt: I'm right there with you, Dontae. That's exactly what Silver's comment means to me. He's laying the groundwork for their end of the negotiations of the next CBA.

Kevin: The NBA and NBPA are setting up for a war.

Chris: Silver is definitely baiting things for a future battle with the NBPA.

Lucas: Ugh.

Dontae: I think if that money doesn't make every franchise profitable it's time for a massive realignment/relocation push.

Chris: Notice how precisely he chooses his words "current system".

Mike: Maybe putting expensive products in small/poor markets wasn't the best strategy in the long run.

Kevin: Silver knows the current system ends at the end of the next season.

Matt: Imagine that.

Kevin: So Belarus is never going to get a team?

Chris: If you are losing money with the new TV contract, that's on you.

Matt: Silver actually conceded to as much on that regard.

Mike: What can he say while the Milwaukee Bucks are trying to get an arena deal done?

Dontae: It's arrogant to me to play a card like Silver played about them being not profitable. It's weak at best. The players and Roberts already called that stance out.

Matt: I have to think there are some teams. Charlotte, New Orleans, Detroit. Though, 10 teams seems like a reach.

Mike: 10 is a reach.

Matt: If it is 10 teams, then you have severe management problems, both per team and at the league executive level.

Dontae: In one more year it'll be even more of a stretch.

Matt: In fact, if I was an owner, I'd be calling the Board of Governors and Silver out on the carpet if there's that kind of draw on the whole league.

Dontae: He's still bailing out owners that committed self-inflicted team building mistakes.

Lucas: It's nice to see Roberts pushing back against the league. The players really got the short end of the stick in the last CBA. While I don't agree with her about the idea of removing the salary cap, at least she is willing to fight back.

Mike: By the 2013-14 season profit sharing was fully implemented. As reported by Grantland, and Bill Simmons' BS Report of 6/30/2014, a leaked report identified nine teams that were losing money, of those nine team, a few still operated at a loss even after receiving profit sharing. The Charlotte Hornets lost millions.

Dontae: They should have, their management was terrible.

Mike: Hey, [Hornets owner] Michael Jordan isn't going to talk to you if you're critical.

Kevin: At some point the NBA should pull the plug on the management of teams that lose money hand over fist. Leave the team there, can the management and find new management. If you can't find new management Seattle will have the MOU done in January. So hey.

Chris: I largely have a limited ability to feel bad for teams losing money though. Most of it has been their own fault.You run your business into the ground on a crap model and then expect me to feel bad about, and pay for it? Particularly with franchise values being what they are? Umm...no.

Dontae: Silver doesn't have the power [to remove management in franchises], if he was [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell maybe......#HailHydra

Lucas: Chris, allow me to direct your attention to the 2008 Bailout.

Mike: [Former NBA commissioner David] Stern put and kept expensive properties in locations that can't support them.

Chris: Yeah, Lucas, while I know people who benefited from it, I wasn't a big fan of that either.

Matt: In a league making money hand-over-fist, with the rarefied air of having one of a coveted few properties, if you can't make money, then the association should have the responsibility to kick you out for their own sakes. I can't imagine that any of these owners would put up with that kind of welfare in any of their other business ventures.

Mike: I think they are obligated to make every effort, like Charlotte, but they have to step back at some point if they ever do expect to expand to Europe.

Chris: I wonder what the vetting process for foreign ownership would look like. That could get interesting quickly.

Matt: I agree with Kevin that they should try keeping the team in the location and replace ownership/management as a first step, then.....

Lucas: Do foreign countries finance arenas with public funds?

Chris: Good question Lucas.

Mike: It's all Bitcoin now.

Matt: That's why it makes more sense to take advantage of what already exists on the basketball front over there.

Chris: I think NASCAR expands to Europe before the NBA. Honestly, I think it is a red herring from Silver.

Mike: Prior to the last CBA they hinted at some contraction, too.

Matt: I think they'll seriously consider it, but it's hard to say in what form. The NFL is the middle of their 15-year plan to place a team in London. If the NFL does it, expect the other leagues to start chomping at the bit about it, too.

Mike: I think they would contract a team so that owner could get out of some poor decisions. The NFL is not on the same level of popularity as the NBA there.

Chris: The Amnesty provision for players was basically player contraction.

Mike: True.

Matt: Even more reason for them to consider making Europe a reality.

Mike: I don't think Europe has much to do with what happens here. I really don't. What's the rookie scale for a player in Bulgaria?

Chris: I'm with you on that Mike. The NBA would need to get to 32 teams before moving abroad.

Matt: My only concern with Europe is that it could unnecessarily draw owner’s attention, even if it amounts to nothing.

Chris: With maybe Mexico City as an exception to that. Carlos Slim needs an NBA team….or twelve.

Mike: That's a long road trip.

Kevin: Spurs and Rockets split the Mexico City market, they'd fight that tooth and nail!

Lucas: I agree Mike, but this is starting to intrigue me a little bit. What major markets over there would lure American players? There's the obvious ones like London and Paris, and possibly Madrid. But what about massive markets that could give superstars a huge reach internationally like Beijing and Delhi? That would be interesting.

Kevin: Only a two hour flight from San Antonio or Houston.

Chris: Or Phoenix or LA.

Kevin: It's a 6-hour flight anywhere in Asia.

Mike: Lucas, the Spurs.

Chris: Mexico City is in a similar time zone too. Asia and Europe are not.

Kevin: But with the "issues" the area is having, the NBA would probably rather put a team in Saskatoon or Yellow Knife before Mexico City.

Matt: If the NHL moves into Vegas, do you think that sticks in the NBA's side in any way?

Chris: I don't think Mexico City gets a team without a new arena.  Mexico City is the new Seattle.

Mike: They would have to start the season a month earlier to eliminate back-to-back games and for very long flights, even from Portland to Mexico City.

Kevin: If the NBA prevents us from getting an arena and an NHL team by proxy, I know of a certain writer on our staff that would absolutely lose his... well... Put a watch on him.

Lucas: To conclude. Hail Hydra.

Matt: I'm just wondering if NHL in Vegas is enough on an impetus for the NBA to consider putting a team there and look at an expansion partner.

Mike: Fine, expansion is Euro newspaper fodder to feed a newly minted TV contract over there.

Kevin: Depends on how the money looks coming out of Vegas.

Chris: Unless things have majorly changed with Silver, I think the NBA still looks at Vegas as toxic. An endless media nightmare.

Kevin: J.R. Smith would sign there immediately.

Chris: The stories from the All-Star game. Antoine Walker would come out of retirement to play there. (Too soon?)

Matt: I think, in general, the NBA tends to be less concerned about their winter cousin. If the NHL cracks Vegas and it works, you'd have to figure they be intrigued with getting into that market.

Mike: They would sooner relocate a team before contracting it, having to give Jordan $400 million dollars is not likely, not from their pockets.

Lucas: Is there reason to believe a Vegas team would have local fan support? I'm a little skeptical.

Kevin: Yeah, the league will definitely move a team before it contracts it.  Contracting has to be viewed as the ultimate failure, unless you are Roger Goodell.

Mike: I think they get into profitable US markets before they contract or expand. Vegas would have corporate support.

Lucas: Good point. The talk of European expansion, while fun for some to talk about, just seems silly right now. I think the NBA should concern themselves with developing the D-League, expanding to profitable markets within the United States, and doing more to make sure teams don't run themselves into the ground before they set their sights on Europe.

Matt: Expansion will likely be a consideration once the new media contract kicks in. European expansion will be a buzzy thing, though I'm not sure it'll be a reality any time soon. I do worry about it drawing attention away from anything in North America. Shifts through relocation seem almost inevitable if teams still can't make money after they crack open the [Scrooge] McDuck vault in a couple of years. Silver actually dared to invoke contraction as talk rumbling among owners. That seems unlikely, so it should be an interesting time on the league map over the next five years.