In his latest piece for the Boston Globe, Gary Washburn examined commissioner David Stern's desire to expand the NBA to Europe. According to Washburn, at one point, Stern was considering adding a team called the London Abbeys to the Association. However, in recent years, the commissioner has backed off the idea of expanding the league to Europe, in part because there aren't enough NBA-ready facilities in place.
"I don’t think having a single team in Europe is practical," Stern said last week in Milan. "I never have. What I’ve said is if we’re going to have an NBA presence here in terms of the league, it should be five teams. It’s safe to say that there aren’t enough buildings, there aren’t adequate TV arrangements, we don’t have owners, and I’m not sure we could charge the prices that would be necessary. I don’t think our fans are that avid yet."
Most of the basketball venues in Europe aren't large enough to generate the revenue that would be required to maintain NBA franchises overseas. Stern acknowledged that there are arenas in London and Berlin that likely could house teams, but besides a proposed Paris arena, there are no additional venues in the works for the near future.
"In one of my recent visits here," Stern said. "There was a discussion about both an arena in Rome that construction ceased upon, and the possibility that there would be a new arena in Milano in connection with the world expo, but that’s not happening, either. So right now, it’s the same two buildings, with the prospect of construction in France that will start in 2014. So, realistically, there is no short-term way that we could, I think, profitably consider that."
The NBA will continue scheduling preseason exhibition games and the occasional regular season contest overseas, but it appears that Stern has no interest in making a commitment beyond that. According to Washburn, "the NBA’s flirtation with Europe appears done" for now.