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Aldridge talks expansion, Bonderman visits City Hall

Seattle SuperSonics v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In his “Morning Tip” article this morning, insider and TNT analyst David Aldridge discussed Adam Silver’s recent comments about NBA expansion, specifically to Seattle. Aldridge spoke to several NBA owners, who are the ones that ultimately make the decision to expand or not. While many of them had positive things to say about Seattle, they also did their share to douse some water on the idea.

“I believe Seattle should have the first shot,” one owner said. “I think a move is more likely than expansion, but right now, neither looks likely.”

The first shot is well and good, except who knows when that shot is coming, or how? The owner suggests a move is more likely, but still not likely. There are no teams with lease agreements coming to expire in the near future. Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Atlanta are all getting new or renovated arenas. A second owner echoed this sentiment.

“I agree with you there are some markets that would be great addition to the NBA but in terms of expansion, I think we need 30 solid teams first,” the second owner said. “If there are teams that are repeatedly losing money every year even after revenue sharing, we must consider moving existing teams to those markets first. Then, once all teams are healthy and making a profit, we can perhaps discuss expansion -- but not until then.”

Despite talk of teams losing money, team evaluations are only increasing. A third owner that Aldridge spoke to said that Ballmer’s $2 billion purchase of the Clippers should be “the starting point” for talk of an expansion fee.

“It may sound like a crazy high number now, but so did the Dodgers (who sold for $2 billion in 2012), Clippers and other team sales prices,” the third owner said. “If you can revitalize part of a city or create a world-class arena that draws a new level of cultural events or anchors downtown, then the economics for the real estate dwarf what happens with the team. For someone who has the wealth and wants to leave his or her imprint on a city and state, an NBA team makes perfect sense.”

At least one owner didn’t even seem as lukewarm as the others. A fourth owner said that he “would never think the money part should override what is best for the long-term viability of the league.”

Aldridge was mostly agnostic on which Seattle location would be preferred by the league, Chris Hansen’s SODO location or a renovated KeyArena in Lower Queen Anne. Aldridge pointed out pros and cons of both, stating that Hansen continues to buy land south of Safeco Field, but lacks political support thanks to the Port of Seattle’s opposition. He also mentions OVG, and specifically Tim Leiweke, having “relationships with most every power broker in the NHL and NBA,” however the Lower Queen Anne location still has major traffic concerns. Time will tell which location wins out, but it doesn’t sound like that time will be soon, at least for the NBA.

Speaking of OVG, Leiweke, along with Director of Special Projects Lance Lopes and investor David Bonderman, were spotted in Seattle today, specifically at Seattle City Hall. They were seen talking to council member Debora Juarez and council president Bruce Harrell. While it’s unknown what was discussed, logic would dictate that Bonderman - who is a UW grad and is worth $2.5 billion - was in town to discuss the proposed $564 million renovation of KeyArena. Bonderman has partnered with OVG and Hollywood movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring an NHL team to Seattle.

The council's Select Committee on Civic Arenas’ next scheduled meeting is next Monday at 10:30 a.m.