City of Las Vegas

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.

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 ESPN.com 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.”