City of Mexico City

And-Ones: Franchise Valuations, G League, Two-Way Deals

We’re likely still a few weeks away from Forbes’ publication of its annual NBA franchise valuations, which are typically revealed during the first half of February. However, new sports-business website Sportico has gotten the jump on Forbes in 2021, trying its hand at projecting the values of all 30 NBA teams.

According to Peter J. Schwartz of Sportico, the average NBA franchise is worth nearly $2.4 billion. That projection dipped slightly as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, since teams around the league have missed out on anticipated revenues as a result of playing without fans. However, the fact that the NBA’s national revenues have remained relatively stable means Sportico’s projected valuations have only dipped about two percent.

In Sportico’s view, the Knicks ($5.42 billion), Warriors ($5.21 billion), and Lakers ($5.14 billion) are far and away the most valuable NBA franchises, followed by the Nets ($3.4 billion) at No. 4. The Pelicans ($1.35 billion), Grizzlies ($1.36 billion), and Timberwolves ($1.43 billion) are at the other end of the spectrum.

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

  • The NBA G League announced in December of 2019 that it would be expanding to Mexico City for 2020/21, but given the circumstances surrounding this season, the Capitanes franchise won’t be debuting now after all. While the league has been quiet about its plans for that Mexico-based franchise, the club is now expected to begin playing in the NBAGL in 2021/22, says Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • Although most coaches and general managers around the NBA support the idea of giving teams a third two-way contract slot – an idea being discussed by the league and the players’ union – some would have liked to see a different tweak made to the two-way rules, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “We are in support of (the proposal),” a Western Conference GM said. “But (we) might prefer to have current two-ways with unlimited game-day restrictions.” Players on two-way contracts are limited to being active for 50 of 72 games this season.
  • In an interesting article for HoopsHype, Michael Scotto explores the “art of the smokescreen,” speaking to agents and team executives about why they might be motivated to leak information to reporters.

NBA G League Expanding To Mexico City

The NBA G League will have a franchise based in Mexico City beginning in 2020/21, the league announced on Thursday night in a press release. According to the NBA’s announcement, the professional team Capitanes, which is currently part of Mexico’s Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP), will join the G League next season, making it the 29th NBAGL franchise.

“Bringing an NBA G League team to Mexico City is a historic milestone for the NBA which demonstrates our commitment to basketball fans in Mexico and across Latin America,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “As the first G League franchise based outside of the U.S. and Canada, we look forward to welcoming Capitanes to the NBA family.”

An expansion G League franchise can take some time to establish. For instance, the Pelicans‘ new NBAGL team, announced in October 2018, won’t relocate to Birmingham, Alabama until 2022/23 and is playing in Erie in the interim. By bringing aboard a franchise like Capitanes that has an existing infrastructure – including a home arena and an ownership group – the NBA will be able to expedite the process, allowing the team to make the transition to the G League next fall.

Capitanes will continue to play its home games at Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera, an arena that holds about 5,000 fans, and will spend at least the next five years in the G League. Unlike the G League’s other 28 teams, Capitanes won’t be affiliated with a specific NBA franchise, per Eric Gomez of ESPN. It’s unclear if it will still be an option for players on assignment from the Trail Blazers or Nuggets, the two NBA teams without NBAGL affiliates.

“The assumption is Portland and Denver will be adding teams over time,” Silver said on Thursday.

The news of the G League expanding to Mexico City comes almost exactly a year after Silver indicated that he was optimistic about establishing an NBAGL team in Mexico. At the time, the NBA commissioner said he was confident that the league would be “planting its flag in Mexico” soon.

Four NBA Teams Will Play In Mexico

Four NBA teams have been selected to participate in The NBA Mexico City Games 2019, the league announced today. The Mavericks, Pistons, Suns and Spurs will all play regular-season games at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, located in Mexico City.

Dallas and Detroit will square off on December 12, with Phoenix and San Antonio meeting two days later. These will be the 29th and 30th games that Mexico will host since its partnership with the league began in 1992.

“NBA games in Mexico City are a core part of our efforts to reach and engage basketball fans throughout Mexico and Latin America,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “With a record four NBA teams visiting Mexico City next season, we expect an unprecedented level of interest and excitement around these games and our surrounding community events.”

ESPN Deportes, Televisa and NBA League Pass in Mexico will all show the games, which will be available in more than 200 countries and territories. Ticket information will be announced later. The games will be accompanied by NBA Cares community outreach projects.

“It’s an honor for the Spurs organization to be able to represent South Texas and the NBA by, once again, playing in Mexico City,” said team president R.C. Buford. “The relationship between our community and Mexico is important and impactful on many levels. We look forward to a wonderful experience and are excited to share Spurs basketball with all of our fans in Mexico.”

Silver Optimistic About G League Team In Mexico

The G League could have a franchise in Mexico by next season, relays Eric Gomez of ESPN. Speaking prior to Thursday’s Bulls-Magic game in Mexico City, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the move would be part of the league’s strategy to increase its presence throughout Latin America.

“We’re in the third quarter there,” Silver said about the possibility of the G League moving southward. He added that it will be “planting its flag in Mexico” very soon.

Last night’s game was the 27th since the NBA began its relationship with Mexico, and another between the Bulls and Jazz is set for Saturday. Silver cited the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, which holds 22,300 people, as a major attraction. He called it “a state-of-the-art arena” and indicated that the NBA would consider playing in other Latin American nations if they had similar venues.

“There were long lines of fans just waiting to get in,” Silver said.

The NBA hasn’t committed to any games in Mexico beyond this season, but Silver is optimistic that the relationship will continue. The league announced a new TV contract on Thursday to show its games on Televisa, a Mexican multimedia company.

“We’re committed to come back to Mexico for many years to come,” Silver added.

Seattle Remains Unlikely To Get NBA Team In Near Future

The NBA will return to Seattle on Friday night, as the Kings and Warriors play one another at KeyArena, but the league still isn’t expected to return to the city on a permanent basis anytime soon, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst details in an in-depth report.

According to Windhorst, the NBA doesn’t have expansion on its timeline and the latest arena developments in Seattle weren’t discussed at the league’s Board of Governors meeting last month. Sources tell Windhorst that some prospective NBA ownership groups have been told by league officials that expansion may not happen until at least 2025, when a new TV deal can be negotiated.

The Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, led by veteran executive Tim Leiweke, is currently in the process of redoing KeyArena — the arena will close for renovations following Friday’s game. That renovation project, which initially had a $600MM price tag, is now projected to cost $750MM, Leiweke tells ESPN. When it’s finished, the New Arena at Seattle Center – as it’s now known – is expected to be ready to house an NHL team and an NBA team, as well as premium concerts and shows.

Seattle officials are optimistic that the city’s odds of landing an NBA franchise will increase substantially once that arena project is complete, with Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan indicating that she has spoken to commissioner Adam Silver and “communicated to him that we’re interested.” However, Windhorst notes that if an NHL franchise moves into the arena first, a hypothetical NBA team would be “arriving last to the party,” which could diminish the league’s interest.

As Windhorst explains, NBA franchise in major markets are increasingly looking to control their own arenas in order to maximize their revenue. The Warriors are doing just that with the Chase Center, and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has a similar plan in in the works to move out of the Staples Center and get his own building. Based on that trend, the NBA may ultimately be more interested in a rival Seattle arena plan from investor Chris Hansen. Hansen, who has long been interested in bringing the NBA back to Seattle, still hopes to construct a privately-financed arena in the city’s SoDo district, near the MLB and NFL stadiums. That project is still in the planning stages though.

For now, Silver and the NBA are focused more on building new audiences in non-U.S. markets than they are on expanding within the United States. Windhorst reports that the league is close to announcing the launch of an NBA G League franchise in Mexico City, which is expected to begin play in 2019/20. That G League team will serve as a “trial balloon” to see how an NBA team south of the border might function, Windhorst adds.

With expansion not on the table anytime soon, relocation would be another potential path to get the NBA back to Seattle. According to Windhorst, several prospective ownership groups are keeping an eye on the Grizzlies, since lawyers believe language in their long-term lease with FedEx Forum could create a window for the team to leave Memphis in 2021. However, team owner Robert Pera bought out a pair of minority owners earlier this year and said at the time that he was “committed to Memphis as an NBA market,” so there are no indications that he’d consider selling.

Ultimately, while the NBA seems destined to return to Seattle at some point, all signs point to that return being a ways off yet.

And-Ones: Doncic, Gee, Mexico City, NBPA

A highlight of Real Madrid star Luka Doncic crossing over former Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver went viral on Thursday, and representatives from a number of NBA teams were on hand to see it in person. According to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link), the Sixers, Suns, Clippers, Magic, Mavericks, Pelicans, Wizards, and others all had officials in attendance.

Of course, given how highly regarded Doncic is, most of these teams are unlikely to have a shot at him in the 2018 NBA draft. In singling out some of the risers and fallers in the latest update to their 2018 big board, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) explain why Doncic is at the top of their rankings.

According to Givony and Schmitz, who refer to Doncic as “the most productive European prospect of all time,” the 6’8″ guard could have a legit chance to win the EuroLeague’s MVP award this season. Some scouts worry about his athleticism, his defense, or his ability to create shots, so it’s not a lock that he’ll go No. 1 in June. But Doncic, at age 18, is already one of the best scorers and facilitators in Europe, in the eyes of Givony and Schmitz.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA swingman Alonzo Gee is headed to the G League, according to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days, who tweets that the Heat‘s affiliate (the Sioux Falls Skyforce) has claimed Gee off waivers. The 30-year-old, who has appeared in regular season games for six NBA clubs, last played for the Nuggets in 2016/17.
  • After reporting last week that the NBA intends to establish a G League franchise in Mexico City, Marc Stein of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the issue and outlines why the league is more seriously considering the viability of eventually expanding to Mexico — not just with a G League team, but with an NBA club. The fact that Mexico City shares a time zone with so many current NBA clubs is a major plus, as commissioner Adam Silver observes.
  • The players’ union and former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter have reached a settlement in their legal battle, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter links). After the NBPA fired Hunter in 2013, the longtime executive director sued the union for $10MM+, and the union counter-sued. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but Hunter said in a statement that he’s happy about “moving forward after years of hard-fought litigation on both sides.”

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Seattle, Mexico, World Cup

LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball may end up playing together in Lithuania, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who report that the Ball brothers are in “serious discussions” with Prienu Vytautas. The Lithuanian team intends to decide within the next day or two whether to officially sign Lonzo Ball‘s two younger brothers, sources tell Wojnarowski and Givony.

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, who are looking to play together for a professional team after officially hiring an agent and forgoing their NCAA eligibility, likely wouldn’t get a chance to play many minutes in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, per ESPN’s report. According to Wojnarowski and Givony, the Ball brothers would likely see more action – perhaps 20 to 25 minutes per game – in the less competitive Baltic League. As Givony tweets, the pay for the Balls would almost certainly be minimal, and the small Lithuanian town of Prienai would hardly be a “glamorous” place to continue their careers.

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

  • TNT’s David Aldridge is the latest reporter to examine the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle. While the city looks like a good bet to be awarded an NHL franchise, the NBA and its team owners are less gung-ho about the idea of expansion, according to Aldridge, who notes that team owners wouldn’t want to further split the money from the league’s $24 billion TV deal.
  • In a separate – and interesting – piece for NBA.com, Aldridge takes an in-depth look at the range of emotions experienced by NBA head coaches who get fired.
  • With the NBA making a concerted effort to grow its brand in Mexico, this season’s G League All-Star Game will be replaced by a contest that pits G League All-Stars against the Mexican national team, per The Associated Press.
  • FIBA officially announced on Monday that the 2023 Basketball World Cup will be staged in multiple countries, with Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines earning hosting rights..

And-Ones: Top International Leagues, Seattle, Ball Brothers

While the NBA as a league is as popular as ever, the gap between the best league in the world and the plethora of international options is shrinking. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla recently broke down the world’s top leagues in a must-read feature for any hoops fans curious about the basketball scene outside of the NBA.

Fraschilla ranks EuroLeague as the best non-NBA league. It’s the continent-wide league of top clubs from domestic leagues in countries like Spain and Turkey. The league is very financially stable, Fraschilla writes, noting that approximately 100 EuroLeague players are making as much or more money than the bottom 100 players in the NBA.

Fraschilla highlights Spain’s Liga ACB, the Turkish Basketball Super League and Russia’s VTB United League as the top pro leagues based in a single country.

Other leagues mentioned in the feature include Australia’s National Basketball League and the Chinese Basketball Association, both of which are growing in popularity of late.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • It’s official, Tim Leiweke‘s Oak View Group is investing to refurnish KeyArena in Seattle. Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports breaks down the latest in the pacific northwest city’s pursuit to reclaim an NBA franchise.
  • Professional basketball hasn’t always succeeded in Mexico. Most recently, Nathaniel Janowitz of ESPN writes, the Capitanes de Ciudad Mexico of the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional have tried to win over hoops fans in the country’s capital.
  • Both LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball have an agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN writes, so neither will be eligible to play college basketball. As Bleacher Report’s David Pick writes, their chances of playing in a competitive league overseas aren’t exactly great either.

NBA Plans To Establish G League Team In Mexico City

The NBA intends to “move quickly” toward establishing an NBA G League franchise in Mexico City, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links). According to Stein, the NBA wants to get a team up and running as soon as it’s feasible, which could happen as early as next season.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of the NBA’s interest in an expansion G League franchise in Mexico City. Last month, when Jonathan Givony of ESPN reported that the league was set to announce the opening of a basketball academy in Mexico, he noted that Mexico City was a candidate to emerge as the location for a G League franchise.

Although not all of the NBA’s 30 teams have G League affiliates of their own yet, a G League franchise in Mexico City is unlikely to be affiliated with any specific NBA team, per Stein’s full report on the plan. Stein indicates the club would be owned and operated locally, while Givony’s report last month suggested that top prospects from the NBA’s training academies could graduate to that G League team in Mexico.

For now, 26 NBA teams either own and operate their own G League teams or have a direct affiliation with a G League squad. The Wizards and Pelicans are good bets to join that group next season, with the Trail Blazers and Nuggets looming as the potential final two holdouts.

If the NBA installs a G League franchise in Mexico City and it thrives, it could be the first step toward eventually establishing an NBA franchise in the largest market in Latin America. As Stein notes, the league isn’t currently looking to expand or to relocate any of its teams, but commissioner Adam Silver views Mexico City as a logical candidate for a franchise in the event of relocation or expansion. A G League team could help generate more interest in basketball in Mexico, helping to pave the way for an eventual NBA franchise.

NBA To Open Training Academy In Mexico City

The NBA is on track to open a new development and training academy in Mexico City, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who reports that the league-funded basketball academy will be officially announced at next month’s Global Games in Mexico.

The academy in Mexico City will be the seventh of its kind, as the NBA has already opened academies in Senegal, India, and Australia, along with three in China. According to Givony, the new NBA Academy Latin America will “be utilized as a location for male and female prospects from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, starting early next year.”

While the opening of the academy is worth noting on its own, Givony also hears that it could be the first step toward the NBA establishing a stronger foothold in Mexico City. The league has long contemplated the idea of having a team based in Mexico, and sources tell ESPN that the new academy could help make that a more viable possibility.

According to Givony, Mexico City may eventually emerge as a 31st franchise for the G League, where prospects from the league’s seven training academies graduate to. As ESPN’s report notes, commissioner Adam Silver has addressed the idea of a Mexico City franchise in the past, suggesting that Mexico will need to produce home-grown NBA players to make it a legit possibility.

“Obviously, it’s an incredible market with over 20 million people, the largest market in North America,” Silver said of Mexico City in January. “While we have no immediate plans to expand, one of the things that we look at, it’s whether expanding will be additive to the league as a whole and clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because the population of the city but as a gateway to the rest of Latin America could potentially be very important for the league.”