Long-running speculation about the NBA making its way to Las Vegas got more fuel earlier today when a well-known sports columnist told a Seattle radio station the league is preparing current owners for expansion into those two cities.
John Canzano, an Oregon-based sports columnist that covers the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, among other teams across a variety of sports, told 93.3 KJR FM — a Seattle sports radio station — the NBA is focusing potential expansion efforts on Las Vegas and Seattle.
The rest of the owners in the league are being told that Vegas and Seattle are the expansion targets,” said Canzano in the interview.
A specific timeline for growing the league to 32 from 30 teams wasn’t mentioned.
Las Vegas Looking for NBA Confirmation
In sports rumor terms, the speculated marriage of the NBA and Las Vegas is ancient — dating back more than a decade. The Maloof brothers owned the Sacramento Kings from 1998 through 2013.
During that period, there was frequent chatter about the family moving the franchise to Sin City because, until 2016, the Maloof family owned the Palms Casino Resort. More recently, the Phoenix Suns threatened a move to Las Vegas or Seattle if their home city didn’t provide financing for arena enhancements, but that crisis was averted when the team reached a 23-year deal with the city in January 2019.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver previously expressed a preference for expansion over existing teams moving to new cities, but he’s taking a cautious approach to adding franchises.
In an April radio interview, Silver said both Las Vegas and Seattle are “great” markets, but added expansion isn’t on the “front burner right now” for the association. He said economics — two new teams would likely dilute current owners — and quality of on-the-floor product are the primary issues that need to be addressed.
Both Cities Want the NBA
Sin City has long been a hotbed of NBA rumors, particularly after adding the NHL’s Golden Nights and the NFL’s Raiders.
As for Seattle, the city was home to the Supersonics from 1967 through 2008 before the franchise was sold and moved to Oklahoma City, becoming the Thunder in the process. Fans in Washington State’s largest city have long felt the Sonics were stolen from them and have been clamoring for the NBA to return for 15 years.
Both cities have plenty going for them in terms of luring the NBA, including enthusiastic fan bases and, perhaps more importantly, infrastructure. In the case of Seattle, the city has a new arena for an NHL franchise that commences play in the 2022-23 season. That venue could potentially house an NBA team as well.
In Las Vegas, a professional basketball team could use T-Mobile Arena. Additionally, real estate developer Oak View Group said in March it’s buying land south of the Las Vegas Strip and is planning a $3 billion project, including a 20,000-seat arena, there.
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