In his “Morning Tip” article yesterday, NBA.com insider David Aldridge was asked a question about expansion, specifically to Seattle. Here is the question, posed by M. Scott Logell:
I am a Seattle resident and am one of the many fans desperate for the Sonics to return. Your article was well done covering all the factions, power players and issues that can make or break the creation of an NBA team. The ending of your article especially rang true, and was loud and clear. That is... nobody in Seattle knows what the NBA supports, what they prefer, etc., etc.
The question I hope you can answer is whether the previous iterations of NBA expansions and relocation of teams was this "difficult" and "vague" and non-committal (borderline unsupportive sometimes). Saying things like it’s not currently being discussed and considered (i.e. on the agenda) by the NBA owners, and even if they did "support" it it’s not going to happen anytime in the next 5 to 10 years, is almost like saying just forget about it because it's not worth the effort. With that kind of extreme aloofness, we don't see why local politicians and financial backers will continue to pursue it. It seems the NBA could care less about the things all the people and players in Seattle are trying desperately to do. Was the NBA this disconnected and non-supportive prior to previous expansions and team relocations?
It certainly does seem that since - and perhaps because of - the Sonics’ relocation to Oklahoma City, the league appears to be fighting much harder to keep teams in their respective cities. This also could, and appears to be, largely in part to new commissioner Adam Silver, although his predecessor David Stern was the one who reportedly fought tooth and nail behind the scenes to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Since then, we’ve seen the Milwaukee Bucks be the subject of relocation rumors as well, only to finalize a new arena there. The Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets have all switched hands, but they are all safe and sound in their current markets. So if relocation is out of sight, and expansion is a distant possibility at best, what does Aldridge think? Here is his response to Mr. Logell:
I can’t speak to the ‘70s or early ‘80s, Scott -- I wasn’t covering the league yet when the Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985. But I’d say things are different now, just because the money of franchise valuations is so, so huge. Expansion will thus be incredibly difficult to pull off for any city. Existing owners are just not all that excited about splitting up this enormous financial pie; they’re going to have to be convinced (which, ultimately, will take a nine-figure check made out to them).
It’s not directed at Seattle per se; they have the same opinion about Vegas or Louisville or any town that’s looking to get in on the action. Having said that, I do believe that owners like Seattle and would support a relocation of an existing team there if that situation ever comes to pass in the coming years. Expansion will just take a little longer.
The line where Aldridge says he believes owners would support a relocation to Seattle seems to fly in the face of what we’ve seen. Of course, the Kings split was reportedly much closer than the final tally and, as I said above, there is a new sheriff in town in Adam Silver. Of course, relocating a team is a tricky thing and is dependent on lease terms and other factors. We also don’t want to be looked at as hypocrites, doing to another city what was done to us. The league seems to want to do everything they can to keep teams in place, with relocation being a last resort. Personally, I don’t see how they can justify a move of any team in the near future. Admittedly, though, David Aldridge knows a lot more than I do...