City of Las Vegas

And-Ones: Jrue, Vegas, Pangos, Payton, Big Markets

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy, having been named the winner of the 2020/21 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the league announced today in a press release.

The award, which aims to honor the player who “best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” is voted on by current NBA players. Each team nominates one of its players, a panel of league executives pares the list down to six finalists (one from each division), and the players vote on those six finalists.

Holiday, who earned 130 of 343 first-place votes, beat out runner-up Kemba Walker (74 first-place votes) for the award. Bam Adebayo, Harrison Barnes, Derrick White, and Josh Okogie were the other finalists.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • While it’s unclear when the NBA might seriously pursue expansion, Las Vegas has frequently been cited as a city the league would consider, and a Yahoo News report suggests one potential ownership group may be in place in Vegas. As Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays, billionaire Jay Bloom heads a series of investors who reportedly have the funds and the connections necessary to be the frontrunners to own a Vegas NBA franchise if the opportunity arises.
  • Kevin Pangos, one of the top point guards in the EuroLeague, is drawing plenty of interest from European teams but may wait until NBA free agency to make a decision, says Aris Barkas of Eurohoops. There’s no indication that Pangos has an NBA offer awaiting him, but the former Gonzaga standout wants to consider all his options before making a decision.
  • Hall-of-Fame guard Gary Payton, who has spoken in the past about wanting to coach in the NBA, tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he has agreed to a multiyear contract to coach Lincoln University in his hometown of Oakland, California.
  • In the wake of teams like the Celtics, the Knicks, and especially the Lakers being eliminated from the postseason, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic explores just how dependent the NBA is on its marquee, big-market franchises, and what the league can do to reduce that dependence.

Vegas Summer League Will Take Place August 8-17

6:40pm: The NBA has officially confirmed that the NBA Las Vegas Summer League will run from August 8-17 this season (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that all 30 NBA teams will participate, playing five games apiece, with a championship game on August 17.


4:01pm: After being canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA Las Vegas Summer League will be held from August 8-17 this year, a source tells Sam Gordon of The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Twitter link).

While the NBA has yet to officially confirm Gordon’s report, it lines up with what we heard in February, when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe stated that the league was aiming to hold its Vegas Summer League sometime in early- to mid-August.

Those dates also make sense in relation to the rest of the NBA’s offseason calendar — two years ago, when the NBA’s 2019/20 league year began on July 1, Vegas Summer League took place from July 5-15. The ’21/22 league year will begin on August 3.

The NBA has typically held smaller Summer Leagues in other cities, including Salt Lake City and Sacramento in 2019, but Vegas is the summer’s main event. In 2019, all 30 NBA franchises fielded teams, with clubs representing China and Croatia joining the mix to make it a 32-team pool.

The Vegas Summer League gives young players, newly-drafted rookies, and undrafted free agents a chance to play big minutes and turn heads in advance of fall training camps.

Latest On Potential Timberwolves Sale

Longtime NBA star Kevin Garnett expressed interest last summer in bidding on his former team, the Timberwolves, as part of a prospective ownership group, but Garnett said in an Instagram story on Thursday that he’s no longer in the running to buy the franchise.

“Sooo just got the news that this process in trying to acquire the TWOLVES IS OVER for me n my group,” Garnett wrote, adding that he plans to “focus on other places” such as Seattle and Las Vegas. “Thx Glen for being yourself n what I kno you to be!!!”

Garnett’s comments – including renewed criticism of current Wolves owner Glen Taylor, with whom KG has feuded in the past – suggested that perhaps the franchise is paring down its list of potential suitors and informed Garnett’s group that it’s no longer a candidate.

However, Taylor told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic and other reporters that neither he nor his representatives received any offer from Garnett and that he wasn’t sure what prompted KG’s public announcement.

“Kevin never contacted me at all saying that he was interested,” Taylor said. “Nor was his name listed on any of the buying groups that asked for financial information to review.”

According to Krawczysnki, Taylor was always open to considering a bid from Garnett or a group representing the Hall-of-Famer, but there was some skepticism about KG’s ability to put together the money necessary to make a competitive offer — Forbes’ latest franchise valuations projected the Wolves’ worth to be $1.4 billion.

Taylor said that he has received inquiries from at least 10 groups or families, per Krawczynski and Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). The Wolves’ owner also informed Chris Hine of The Star Tribune that he spoke to four former NBA players who expressed interest in the team and asked if they were affiliated with Garnett — they all said no.

“If he would’ve called or had been a person who wanted some help, I would’ve tried to help him like anybody else,” Taylor said of Garnett.

Taylor told Wolfson that some of the interested parties are completing their due diligence, suggesting the sale process could gain momentum soon. However, Krawczynski believes “the betting money” is on Taylor retaining control of the franchise for the foreseeable future, since the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Wolves’ on-court struggles, and Taylor’s insistence that the club remain in Minnesota are all factors working against a bidding war.

“The process has taken longer than anticipated just because we’re not sure when we’re going to have attendance at the games,” Taylor said, per Hine. “And so that’s a hard thing to kind of figure in there, the value or lack of value. Probably the only thing that’s holding it up. I still have interest.”

Multiple reports in the last seven months have indicated that former Grizzlies minority owner Daniel Straus has gotten furthest down the road in negotiations with Taylor. Those talks seem to have hit a standstill though, and aren’t going anywhere at the moment, sources tell Krawczynski.

Kansas City, Las Vegas May Battle For Expansion Team

Seattle is considered a lock whenever the NBA decides to expand, and Kansas City and Las Vegas could be fighting for the other new franchise, according to Jabari Young of CNBC. Young breaks down the assets that each city could offer and notes that finding billionaires to finance the bids will be crucial.

Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the possibility of expansion at a press conference in December, but said it’s “not on the front burner.” The NBA isn’t expected to consider adding teams until after the 2021/22 season at the earliest.

Former Grizzlies president Andy Dolich, who helped move the team from Vancouver to Memphis, believes the league will try to create a “horse race” among cities leading up to expansion. He says the components the NBA is looking for can be described as A-B-C-D.

“The A is avidity: the market you’re picking has to be an avid sports market,” Dolich said. “The B is simple: Who is your billionaire? If you don’t have your billionaire, you don’t have anything. The C is the community: the elected officials, the leading businesses who are going to support you and the fan base. The D (destination) is where are you playing? The NBA is not playing in yesterday’s arena. Those are the four key parts.”

As the former home of the Kings, Kansas City already has an NBA history, Young notes, and Mayor Quinton Lucas gained the league’s attention when he offered to serve as a temporary location for the Raptors. The 19,000-seat T-Mobile Center is already in place to house an expansion franchise, but there’s no obvious person to bid for the team.

“I just don’t know who would be the owner, at least locally,” said Kathy Nelson, CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission. “Financially, what does that ownership team look like? That’s the billionaire-dollar question. It’s not a million dollar. It’s a billion dollars.”

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a minority owner of baseball’s Kansas City Royals and may be willing to get involved with an NBA team. Nelson’s committee has identified other potential investors, but no one has been pegged as a majority stakeholder.

That’s also a concern with Las Vegas, Young adds. The city already has a WNBA franchise and an established relationship with the NBA as host of the Summer League. There’s a 20,000-seat arena that serves as the home of the NHL’s Golden Knights.

However, there are concerns about Las Vegas because so much of the city’s economy depends on tourism. That has taken a hit due to COVID-19, and the NBA isn’t sure if a franchise can survive there if the tourism decline drags on.

“It just reinforces the importance of the ownership,” said Patrick Rishe, sports business director at Washington University in St. Louis. “You’re going to need a very strong ownership group. The market that has the most financially viable ownership group, that will trump any other consideration.”

League Officials Have Floated Possible $2.5 Billion Expansion Fee

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in his preseason press conference last month that the league has become more open to the idea of expanding beyond its current 30 teams. While Silver cautioned that expansion isn’t “on the front burner,” a report on Tuesday from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggests there have been some discussions about the concept in the league office.

According to Windhorst, officials have “floated” a price tag of $2.5 billion as a potential expansion fee for two new teams in the near future.

Expansion fees – which are paid by the incoming franchises – are split equally by the NBA’s current teams and aren’t shared with players. That means two new franchises paying $2.5 billion apiece could result in a $160MM+ windfall for each of the league’s 30 existing clubs, Windhorst notes.

It’s not clear whether that $2.5 billion projection is a realistic one, but the NBA “knows its business and its bidders,” according to Windhorst, who points out that multiple groups based in cities like Seattle and Las Vegas could have interest in establishing a new NBA franchise and could be motivated to meet the league’s asking price in an expansion scenario.

With a number of current teams accumulating debt during the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the idea of expansion has increased, Windhorst writes.

Still, team owners looking to make up for lost short-term revenue should be wary of pushing to do so via an expansion fee. As Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and others have pointed out, that expansion fee is essentially a loan that will be repaid over the years via revenue sharing if teams are receiving 1/32nd of the league-wide pie instead of 1/30th.

And-Ones: Morris Twins, Expansion, J. Grant, Hampton

Almost exactly a year ago, the Morris twins – Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris – changed agencies, signing with Roc Nation Sports for representation. However, with the two veteran forwards on the verge of free agency, Roc Nation won’t be the agency repping them this fall.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the Morris twins have signed with agent Chafie Fields of Wasserman for representation. Fields is one of a small handful of agents who represents both NFL and NBA clients.

It’s not necessarily the best offseason to be reaching free agency, as few teams around the NBA will have cap room available, but the Morris twins should do pretty well on the open market. Marcus is coming off a productive season with the Knicks and Clippers, while Markieff played a role in helping the Lakers win a title last month.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • One sports business expert who spoke to Jabari Young of CNBC predicted that the NBA may revisit the idea of expansion in the coming years in an effort to offset the financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Seattle and Las Vegas are by far the two most likely markets for various reasons,” said Patrick Rishe, the director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis. “Today, if it was two teams, you’re talking over $1 billion that would be shared, and those two new expansion teams will not get their share of media revenues at the beginning.”
  • Using his new metric BORD$, John Hollinger of The Athletic evaluated the values of this year’s free agent small forwards and power forwards. Unsurprisingly, Brandon Ingram and Anthony Davis grade out as the top forwards. Derrick Jones, Jabari Parker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are among the players rated highly by Hollinger’s formula, while Nuggets forward Jerami Grant is dubbed by Hollinger to be “probably the most overrated player” on this year’s free agent market.
  • In a conversation with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, draft prospect RJ Hampton discussed spending last year in New Zealand, his preparation for the 2020 draft, and why he’s modeling his offensive game after Zach LaVine.

Vegas Remains Most Likely Host For Potential NBA Postseason

Following up on a CNBC report from last week that suggested the NBA is mulling the idea of playing games in Las Vegas if the 2019/20 season is resumed, Chris Mannix of SI.com confirms the league is exploring the viability of holding its entire postseason in Vegas.

As we noted last week and as Mannix reiterates in today’s article, Vegas makes the most sense as a neutral site because the NBA has an existing relationship with the city, which hosts Summer League games at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion each July. And a single, neutral site may be the only realistic way to complete the playoffs, since travel restrictions may vary in different parts of the country and games would almost certainly have to be played behind closed doors anyway.

Another recent report indicated that the NBA has had internal discussions about locales such as Orlando, Atlantic City, Hawaii, or Louisville hosting games. However, according to Mannix, Vegas is currently the only city receiving “serious” consideration from the league.

Unsurprisingly, several team and league officials who spoke to Mannix confirmed there’s no chance of a traditional postseason happening this summer, so the NBA is getting creative as it considers its options. Still, it’s unclear if holding the playoffs in a single city would be doable either, since thousands of support staffers would be required at hotels and arenas. As Mannix writes, it’s probably not a viable solution unless the COVID-19 situation improves significantly in the coming months and rapid tests become widely available.

“We all want to play,” one executive from a playoff team told Mannix. “But we all know we can’t play until things are dramatically different.”

Meanwhile, the NBA will have to figure out how a resumed season might impact the 2020 draft, which is currently scheduled for June 25. The league’s preference would almost certainly be to postpone the event until after the conclusion of the resumed season, since offseason rules apply to the draft for roster and trade purposes.

However, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv explains, player agents are concerned about the idea of delaying the draft beyond July. If the draft ends up being pushed to August or September, the early-entrant decision deadline would likely be postponed along with it, causing it to bump up against the start of the fall semester, which would create major complications for prospects and college coaches alike.

NBA Continues To Mull Possible Playoff Scenarios

As industries across North America and around the world continue to be hit hard by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, NBA executives are still hanging onto hope that the 2020 postseason can be salvaged, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“They’re very determined to have a champion,” one source told The Post.

League executives are hoping it will be possible to play five-to-seven regular season games followed by a 16-team playoff, according to Berman, who suggests those games would all happen in a single city and would be played behind closed doors. The NBA only wants to consider a single-elimination postseason as a last resort, but reducing each round to a best-of-three series is a possibility. One league official tells Berman that “nothing is off the table.”

Previous reports have suggested that the NBA would like to have each team play at least 70 regular season games, since there’s language in regional TV deals calling for a minimum of 70 local games. However, that has become less of a priority as of late, according to Berman, who adds that that idea of completing the full regular season is essentially a non-starter at this point.

A best-case scenario might see the NBA resume its 2019/20 season in late June or early July, with the intent of pushing the start of the ’20/21 campaign back to December, says Berman.

As for where the season might be completed if it resumes, one report last week said the league was eyeing Las Vegas as a candidate, since the city has multiple venues and has a preexisting relationship with the NBA as a result of Summer League. Berman confirms that Vegas is a possibility, but suggests the NBA has also had “internal talks” about locales such as Orlando, Atlantic City, Hawaii, and Louisville.

Las Vegas A Candidate To Host NBA Games?

As the NBA considers its options for how and when to resume the 2019/20 season, multiple team executives tell Jabari Young of CNBC that they favor the idea of playing games in Las Vegas.

In a perfect world, each club would be able to host games at its own home arena with fans in attendance. However, playing games at a neutral site – and behind closed doors – may end up being a more realistic solution for containment and health reasons as the NBA navigates the coronavirus pandemic.

As Young explains, Vegas makes sense as a neutral site because the NBA has an existing relationship with the city, which hosts Summer League games at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion each July.

Sources tell Young that the NBA has previously “floated the idea” of using Las Vegas as the location for an in-season tournament, which is something commissioner Adam Silver hopes to add to the league’s annual schedule in the coming years. Young points out that a resumed 2019/20 season may be an ideal time to test out that sort of event at a neutral site — the NBA could use a play-in tournament to fill the lower postseason seeds rather than playing out the remainder of its regular season.

The NBA remains in the early stages of the planning process and will, of course, have to adjust and react based on how the coronavirus situation evolves across North America. However, as we’ve heard before, the league is considering a wide range of experimental ideas as it looks to salvage the 2020 postseason.

According to Young, one concept the league has discussed is playing best-of-five first round series followed by a one-and-done tournament which would determine the two teams that square off in the NBA Finals. The Finals would then be a best-of-five series as well, Young notes.

Robert Sarver: Suns Won’t Move Out Of Phoenix

Suns owner Robert Sarver delivered an important message to fans on Thursday, denying that he’ll move his team out of Phoenix if Talking Stick Resort Arena doesn’t undergo a $230MM upgrade.

“The Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix,” Sarver said. “I am 100% committed, and have been for the last four years, to find a solution to keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”

A Suns city council member told Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic that Sarver threatened to take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the new arena deal isn’t approved, but the council member has since walked his comments back on the two cities, according to Roberts. However, Suns CEO and President Jason Rowley acknowledged the possibility of moving the team somewhere else in the Valley or out of state only as a last resort.

Sarver purchased the Suns for $401MM back in 2004. The franchise has made the postseason just five times in that span, with their last appearance coming during the 2009-10 season. They have the league’s worst record at 4-24 through 28 games.

“I’m a strong proponent — as evident by the term sheet I signed last week — that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility,” Sarver said. “In addition, it is important for the Phoenix Suns to build a first-class practice facility so the players of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury can continue to develop. I am 100% all-in on keeping this team right here where we stand, and I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear.” 

Talking Stick Resort Arena — formerly known as the US Airways Center — has been the home of the Suns since 1992. The Phoenix city council will vote on January 23 on the proposal, which could also extend the Suns’ contract to play in the arena until 2032, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.