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If the Bucks Don't Move... Then What?

The NBA says the Milwaukee Bucks need a new arena or else. Or else what, exactly?

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI, home to the Milwaukee Bucks, has a lease that runs until September 30, 2017. The NBA has deemed the Bradley Center unfit by their standards (a bestowal that basketball fans in Seattle are familiar with). They have said that once that lease runs out, the Bucks will be playing in a new arena, if not in Milwaukee, than most likely in Seattle. However, what right does the NBA really have to make such threats?

The NBA is an LLC, a parent company to 30 different franchises, each one independently owned and operated. Leases are one facet that are negotiated by teams and cities, not by the NBA. So let's say September 30, 2017 comes and goes and Milwaukee has not built a new arena. What does the NBA do then?

They can not force Herb Kohl to sell his team. They can not take his team away from him (some people here might point to George Shinn and the New Orleans Hornets, but he was actually bought out. The team was not simply ripped away from him). So if Kohl and the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corporation are both willing to extend the lease, what power does the NBA have?

What can Adam Silver do if Herb Kohl says "no, I'm not leaving. I'm going to stay right here in this arena until I die."? People might say, "well look at Seattle. The NBA forced them to move when they didn't build a new arena." The difference there is that by that point they already had an owner who was more than willing to move the team. Kohl is not as inclined.

So again I ask, if the NBA's deadline comes and goes and Kohl stands pat, what power does the NBA have? As far as I can tell, the answer is none. As Sonics fans, this is not a scenario we want to think about, as it would basically eliminate any leverage that we could provide the NBA. Although, it would seemingly be a resolution in Milwaukee, even if it's not one that NBA likes or agrees with, and could open the door to expansion for us. At the same time, it could also lead the NBA to continue to push Kohl to build a new arena and could drag the whole process out even further.

Granted, none of this seems likely, but the truth is that if the NBA's strong-arm tactics don't work, and Kohl is willing to lose money, there's nothing they can do to make him move.