NBA Expansion: In a change from his past statements on the topic of expansion, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the league has studied the repercussions of extending beyond the league’s current 30 teams.
“I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point,” Silver said during his annual preseason availability with reporters Monday. “I’d say it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”
But, with the NBA opening up lines of credit during the pandemic to give its teams economic relief, it is striking that Silver acknowledged the possibility of expanding beyond the current 30 teams.
Each extension team would come with a substantial entry fee that would all but certainly be over $1 billion, which would then be passed on to the 30 current teams.
“You know, we’re very appreciative of the markets that have indicated an interest in having an NBA team,” Silver said. “One of the issues for the league office, and this comes up all the time in terms of competitiveness, it’s not a secret that we don’t have 30 competitive teams at any given time right now when you go into the season, measured by the likelihood of ability to win a championship.”
The NBA has not added a team since it expanded to 30 teams by agreeing to add the Charlotte Hornets (then Bobcats) in 2002, which then began to play in 2004.
“One of our focuses as the league office is always on how do you create better competition. So that’s one of the things that we continue to think about as we consider expansion … It’s an economic issue and it’s a competitive issue for us. So it’s one that we’ll continue to study, but we’re spending a little bit more time on it than we were pre-pandemic.” continued Silver.
NBA’s policy on National Anthem
He also discussed the league’s policy on kneeling for the national anthem.
After virtually every NBA player, coach, and staff member kneeled for the national anthem during the league’s bubble, Silver said he expects the league to return to its former policy of standing for the anthem this season.
Although, there will not be any penalties if people choose not to stand, that if there were to be any changes to that policy moving forward, they are agreed upon by everyone.
“There’s always been this notion that this league is bigger than one team, one player, one league office,” Silver said. “I think it’s why we’ve been so successful over the years because we really do come together and work through in some cases very difficult issues. I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now, and I think it calls for real engagement rather than simply rule enforcement.”
Will NBA return to a bubble for the Playoffs?
When asked about the idea that the league returning to a bubble for the playoffs, Silver said that, while anything is a possibility, his hope is that things actually go the other way and that the vaccine for COVID-19 is successful enough that, by the time the playoffs are scheduled to start in late May, there is a chance that fans could be back in buildings.
“It’s our hope that given the planned rollout of the vaccine that we’ll be going in the other direction, that it’ll become increasingly more likely that there will be a return to a home-court advantage,” Silver said. “That come May, June, July, which right now our season is targeted to end mid-July, that by that point there really will be a meaningful opportunity to have fans in our building.“