City of Las Vegas

Expansion Considered Unlikely Until After Next TV Contract

If expansion is in the NBA’s future, it probably won’t happen until after the next television contract is negotiated, Marc Stein writes in a story for Substack.

NBA owners aren’t in a hurry to add two new teams before working out the new deal, which could double the current revenue that they get from TV. That contract is valued at $24 billion over nine years and will expire following the 2024/25 season. The next television deal is expected to significantly raise the value of each franchise and will eventually increase the expansion fees that the new teams will have to pay.

The owners would also like to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement with the union before they consider expansion, Stein adds. Negotiations with the NBPA have already started, and either side can opt out of the current CBA in December.

During his annual NBA Finals press conference, commissioner Adam Silver dismissed the idea that Seattle and Las Vegas are being targeted for expansion teams in 2024. However, Stein states that those two cities should be considered heavy favorites when expansion does happen, noting that Silver was very complimentary to both of them at his media session.

“Those are wonderful markets,” Silver said. “We were in Seattle. I’m sorry we are no longer there. We have a WNBA team in Seattle in an almost brand-new building that’s doing spectacular. And Las Vegas, where we will be at our summer league in July, has shown itself to be a great sports market as well.”

And-Ones: Okobo, Cleveland, James, Rupert

Former NBA guard Elie Okobo is expected to sign with Monaco, according to Donatas Urbonas of The No. 31 pick of the 2018 draft, Okobo is still monitoring his NBA options but if he doesn’t get an offer, he’ll join the Monaco club. He averaged 14.5 PPG for ASVEL Villeurbanne last season. Okobo played in 108 NBA games with Phoenix from 2018-20.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Australia’s Adelaide 36ers have signed Antonius Cleveland on a two-year deal, according to Sportando. The 28-year-old shooting guard played last season with the Illawarra Hawks, averaging 14.2 PPG and 6.6 RPG and getting named the NBL’s Best Defensive Player. Cleveland played 28 games in the NBA, including 11 with Dallas during the 2019/20 season.
  • What does LeBron James want to do after his NBA career? He expressed a desire to become an owner of an NBA franchise in Las Vegas, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I want to buy a team, for sure,” James said on his new “The Shop” show. “I want a team in Vegas.”
  • Potential 2023 first-round selection Rayan Rupert will play for the New Zealand Breakers next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes. Rupert, a French 6’7” wing, is currently projected by ESPN as the No. 21 pick in next year’s draft. Rupert, 18, has drawn comparisons to Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges because of his defensive versatility.

Silver Addresses Expansion, Blazers, All-NBA Teams, In-Season Tournament

The NBA isn’t planning to expand in the near future, according to commissioner Adam Silver. During his annual press conference prior to Game 1 of the Finals, he shot down a report that the league is targeting Seattle and Las Vegas for expansion in 2024, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reports.

“We are not discussing that at this time,” Silver said.

Silver said the league will inevitably expand and called Seattle and Las Vegas “wonderful markets.” However, he cited a lack of top-tier talent as a reason for pumping the brakes on expanding in the next couple of seasons.

“There still are only so many of the truly top-tier super talents to go around,” he said. “That is something on the mind of the other teams as we think about expansion.”

Here are some of the other highlights from Silver’s press conference:

  • With many teams moving toward position-less lineups, All-NBA teams may be determined differently in future seasons. “We’re going to discuss that with the players and sit down once again and see if there’s a better way to do it,” Silver said.
  • Amid reports that Nike co-founder Phil Knight and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky made an offer to buy the Trail Blazers for more than $2 billion, Silver stated the Blazers will eventually be sold and he hopes they’ll remain in Portland. The Blazers released a statement on Thursday saying the team is not for sale. “At some point, the team will be sold,” Silver said. “I don’t have any sense of the precise timing. … This is a hugely a complex estate, and although it’s been several years, these things take time.”
  • An in-season tournament is still a possibility but “we’re not there yet,” Silver said. With so many teams giving key players nights off during various points of the season, Silver wants to ensure the tournament is competitive. “We want to make sure we have a system where our best players are incentivized to be on the floor,” Silver said.

And-Ones: Seattle, Las Vegas, Expansion, Baker, Tatum

The NBA may have earmarked Seattle and Las Vegas as potential expansion locations. According to John Canzano of 750 The Game, the league is eyeing both cities if it adds expansion teams, though no further details have been made available. Canzano made his comments on Seattle radio station 93.3 KJR (Twitter link).

It’s worth noting that a similar report was shot down by the league in March, as Chris Daniels of wrote at the time. However, several players and league officials hold Seattle in high regard, and Las Vegas is currently used by the NBA for its annual summer league, which will be held July 7-17 this year.

Here are some other odds and ends from the basketball universe:

  • The Thunder have received a summer league commitment from Robert Baker, his agent Jerry Dianis told Hoops Rumors. Baker, a 6’10” forward, played with the Kings’ G League affiliate this year. The 23-year-old also played collegiately at Harvard from 2017-20.
  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum would like to see some changes to the All-NBA Team voting, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Tatum received All-NBA First Team honors, but he was left off last year’s three teams — costing him tens of millions on his current deal, as Bontemps notes. Among Tatum’s adjustments would be making the teams positionless. He used Joel Embiid as an example, since Embiid finished second in Most Valuable Player voting this season, but was relegated to the All-NBA Second Team because the MVP winner, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, made the First Team. Tatum also voiced his concerns about the process back in February.

And-Ones: Key Dates, Las Vegas, 2021 Draft, Clemons

If a team wants to waive a player who is on an expiring contract, that move will have to be made by Thursday at 5:00 pm ET, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Players on multiyear deals can be cut after that, but a player in the final year of his contract must clear waivers before Sunday.

Sunday is also the last day for NBA teams to officially sign a player or convert a player from a two-way contract to a standard deal, Marks adds. That deadline has typically varied from team to team, depending on when the club plays its final regular season game — this year, all 30 teams will play their regular season finales on April 10.

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

  • Having bought a 66-acre parcel of land in Las Vegas, the Oak View Group intends to build and run an arena that could one day attract an NBA team, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The plan is to open the arena in 2026, and consultant Marc Badain says it will be “NBA-ready.” The league has long stated that expansion isn’t in its immediate plans, but if and when that changes, Seattle and Las Vegas are considered two of the top candidates for franchises.
  • Within the same story, Vorkunov also explores the increased number of fines the NBA has handed out to players who use profanity this season, examining why those penalties have become more frequent and where the league seems to draw the line.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the NBA’s impressive 2021 draft class and considers whether it could end up rivaling the 1996 class, which Hollinger considers the best ever.
  • As Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw first reported (via Twitter), Maine Celtics guard Chris Clemons was named the NBA G League’s Player of the Month for March. He averaged 29.0 points, 5.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game in 11 appearances, including a 52-point outburst on March 17 vs Lakeland.

And-Ones: Vildoza, Las Vegas, Elite, Smart

Luca Vildoza announced on his Twitter feed that he underwent foot surgery and that he will continue to pursue his NBA dream (Twitter link).

The Knicks placed Vildoza on waivers on Oct. 3. New York signed the Argentinian guard to a four-year deal in May, but there was no guaranteed money beyond the 2020/21 season and he never played for the team.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Las Vegas is a possible destination if the NBA decides to expand, according to Mike Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). Commissioner Adam Silver made that statement at the CAA World Congress of Sports. “It’s on a list at the point that we do turn to expansion, which isn’t right now, but at some point, no doubt Vegas will be on the list,” Silver said.
  • Overtime Elite will begin its inaugural season on October 29, Jonathan Givony of ESPN writes. Overtime Elite – a developmental program comprised of 16-to-20-year-old prospects, many of whom were four- or five-star recruits – will be split into three teams. Those teams will also play each other as part of the OTE League Series.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been suspended for the team’s final preseason game on Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Smart missed the team’s flight to Orlando for its preseason game on Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Smart signed a four-year, $77.1MM extension in August.

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.”