City of Las Vegas

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 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 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.

Sarver Threatens To Move Suns To Seattle Or Vegas?

In the midst of a battle with the city of Phoenix over funding for arena renovations, Suns owner Robert Sarver has told some city council members that he’ll take the franchise to Seattle or Las Vegas if he can’t reach a deal in Phoenix, reports Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic.

As Jessica Boehm of The Arizona Republic outlines, the Phoenix City Council had been set to vote on a proposal that would see the city pay $150MM on a $230MM renovation plan for Talking Stick Resort Arena, with the Suns contributing the remaining $80MM. The deal would have also ensured that the Suns were committed to staying in Phoenix through at least 2037.

However, in the wake of “backlash from the community,” it appears that vote will be postponed. According to Roberts, delaying the vote will allow time for a pair of public hearings on the project, whereas if the Phoenix City Council shot down the proposal today, it might kill future prospects for a deal. There are seven city council members and at least three are currently opposing the arena renovation plan.

As Boehm explains, the Suns’ current arena lease runs through 2032, but that agreement includes a provision that would allow the franchise to opt out in 2022 if its building is considered “obsolete.” If the renovations are approved, they’d take place between 2019 and 2021, ensuring that the arena is modernized.

Given the nature of the situation, Sarver’s threats to move the franchise could simply be a way of regaining the upper hand and forcing city council members to seriously weigh the ramifications of turning down the funding plan for those arena renovations. If the Suns were to leave Phoenix, the city would have to take over operations and maintenance of Talking Stick Resort Arena, Boehm notes.

While the NBA reportedly has no plans for expansion in the next several years, there are several cities interested in a franchise, led by Seattle, which recently secured an NHL team. With relocation looking like the only viable way to get an NBA franchise to Seattle anytime soon, team owners seeking public funding for new arenas or arena upgrades may try to use the threat of a move to the Pacific Northwest as leverage during the next few years.

Taking that into account, I don’t know that we should take Sarver’s threats too seriously for now, and I wouldn’t expect the NBA to idly stand by if he attempts to move his team out of one of the country’s largest cities, but this is a situation worth watching closely going forward.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, A. Davis, Rondo

After signing one star player this summer, the Lakers‘ plan is to land another one within the next year or two. With that in mind, Brian Windhorst of spoke to Kevin Love about LeBron James‘ ability to recruit a second star to Los Angeles, asking Love what he’d tell a top free agent who was considering joining LeBron and the Lakers. According to Love, a player in that scenario would have to be willing to “follow,” as he tells Windhorst.

“You have to be resilient. I had a lot of hard nights. There were dark times,” Love said. “But I always believed keep fighting, I was stubborn about it. And LeBron makes sure you have a chance to win every year. He’s gotten a lot of guys rings. You’re going to win at the highest level. We won and we bonded and we’re going to continue this brotherhood.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Much of the speculation about an eventual Anthony Davis trade has centered around the Celtics, but in a piece for Bleacher Report, Eric Pincus makes a case for why the Lakers should actually be viewed as the odds-on favorites to acquire the All-NBA big man. Of course, the Pelicans continue to have no interest in moving Davis to any team, so things would likely have to take a Jimmy Butler-esque turn in New Orleans for the team to even consider the possibility.
  • The offseason acquisition of Rajon Rondo didn’t necessarily fill a positional need, given Lonzo Ball‘s presence at the point, but Rondo is showing why the Lakers signed him, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register, pointing the veteran’s ability to be a leader and game-manager. “He knows how to manage a game,” head coach Luke Walton said earlier this week. “He’s been one of the best point guards in our game for years. And one of the smartest. So he knows what he’s doing.”
  • The Lakers’ game against the Warriors in Las Vegas on Wednesday night provided a glimpse of the NBA’s possible future in the city, writes Tim Dahlberg of The Associated Press. There are groups in the city with interest in bringing the NBA to Vegas on a permanent basis, and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson – honored at halftime – told the crowd, “I hope one day Las Vegas gets an NBA team.”

NBA Considering Possibility Of Expansion?

As the NBA and NBPA work toward finalizing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league is also reportedly considering the possibility of expansion, according to Kevin Nesgoda of While no NBA teams are expected to relocate anytime soon, the league apparently hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving into a new (or old) market via expansion.

According to Nesgoda, he asked dozens of media and league sources whether NBA expansion is on the table, and the overwhelming majority suggested the possibility is being discussed. Nothing is certain at this point, but Nesgoda hears that Seattle remains on the league’s radar. Nesgoda identifies Louisville, Pittsburgh, Omaha, Las Vegas, Vancouver, and Mexico City as other cities that could attempt to vie for a franchise if given the opportunity.

The possibility of expansion is an interesting one for the NBA, particularly if there’s a city with an NBA-ready arena prepared to make a play for a team. Unlike Major League Baseball, where teams play nearly every day, the NBA could conceivably function with an odd number of teams, so adding a single franchise would be realistic. That scenario would dilute the league-wide talent pool slightly, but not significantly enough to have a real impact on the quality of play.

As Nesgoda cautions, there are still plenty of roadblocks between NBA expansion becoming a reality in Seattle or another city, even if the league were to open up bidding. A potential ownership group would require the land, the funding, and the approval for an NBA arena in order to be taken seriously as a potential location for a franchise. Still, it’s something worth keeping an eye on as the league and the players’ union negotiate a new CBA deal.

And-Ones: Las Vegas, Motum, Taylor, Lockout

The success of the summer league in Las Vegas has created hopes that the city may one day have its own NBA team, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Former commissioner David Stern planted the seed during a 2007 meeting with Mayor Oscar Goodman, and the annual summertime gathering has strengthened the city’s position. The 20,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena is large enough to house an NBA franchise, and the NHL has started to break down the Las Vegas barrier, announcing recently that the city is a candidate for a future expansion team, along with Seattle and Quebec City. City officials should be patient, though. Celtics president Rich Gotham pointed out that the league has no immediate plans for expansion and that sentiment remains high to put a team in Seattle.

There’s more from around the world of basketball:

  • The Jazz have offered a partially guaranteed contract to forward Brock Motum, tweets Angus Crawford of Team officials were impressed by his play in the summer league. Motum is “strongly” considering Utah’s offer, but is also listening to teams in Europe (Twitter link).
  • Former Hornet Jeffery Taylor has turned down an offer from Maccabi of the Israeli Premier League, tweets David Pick of The news was relayed by Taylor’s agent, Todd Ramasar.
  • The new contract that Miroslav Raduljica signed with Panathinaikos in the Greek League includes a $500K escape clause, according to Pick (Twitter link). The Serbian briefly played for the Wolves last season.
  • The NBA is risking its historic success with tough labor talk, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post. Both the league and the players’ union issued statements this week, reminding everyone that a potential lockout is just two years away.
  • Sixteen teams still have not used their $2.814MM room exception, tweets former Nets executive Bobby Marks.

Proposal For New Arena And NBA Team In Las Vegas

Former NBA player Jackie Robinson proposed a plan earlier this week for a $1.3 billion new arena on the Las Vegas Strip, according to The Associated Press.

The proposed arena would seat 22,000, which is 76 seats shy of the largest NBA arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills. Robinson is hoping the arena will be completed by 2016 and claims the entire project will be privately funded.

Along with his hopes for completion, Robinson hopes his NBA experience and relationship with his old general manager and current NBA head of basketball operations, Kiki Vandeweghe, will attract an NBA team to this proposed arena. David Stern has previously hinted that Seattle and Las Vegas could be the next cities to be considered for NBA expansion teams.

Neil deMause of Field of Schemes points out that this exact location was the same site another group of investors unsuccessfully proposed an NBA and MLS stadium on back in 2011. While Clark County claims they have not received any submissions for land use approval, the arena is scheduled to break ground in the spring of 2014.

Odds & Ends: Bobcats, Expansion, Kings, Brown

USA Today's Sam Amick rounds up the news from the Board of Governors meeting today, which featured unanimous approval of Charlotte's name change from Bobcats to Hornets. Commissioner David Stern initially laughed off the idea of the switch, but fan support for the Hornets monicker persuaded him to take the issue seriously, Amick writes. Stern also offered hints that the league could consider expansion to Seattle and Las Vegas in the future, and he said the union's lack of an executive director has hung up the league's plans to implement human growth hormone testing by next season. Amick also passes along the league's rule adjustments, and we've got more from the meeting as we look around the Association this evening:

  • In May, the league imposed a deadline of 2017 for the opening of a new arena in Sacramento, but Stern indicated today that he's pleased with the progress the Kings and the city are making, as Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee observes.
  • The Nuggets, Wizards, Grizzlies, Suns and Knicks were all in attendance as Bobby Brown participated in a five-on-five scrimmage Wednesday, reports Adam Zagoria of The Knicks also saw Brown workout Tuesday, and they're reportedly moving toward a deal. 
  • Eric Gordon tells Shams Charania of that the Pelicans have assured him that he's a part of the team's long-term plans.
  • Lakers VP Jim Buss said on NBA TV tonight that he strongly believes Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles will be healed in time for him to play in preseason games this fall, notes Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles
  • The Bulls may have promised a training camp invitation to Andrew Goudelock as an enticement to get him to play for their summer league team, according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald (Twitter link).
  • Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has maintained flexibility with his underwhelming free agent haul this summer, but his decision to keep the core of the team intact could have negative consequences, as Eric Koreen of the National Post examines.