While fans in Seattle have long advocated for the return of the SuperSonics, don’t expect basketball to be returning to the city any time soon.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the NBA doesn’t have expansion “anywhere on its timeline.” The earliest that could happen, he reported on Friday, is 2025 when a new TV deal can be negotiated.
Seattle is making steps to landing a team in the future, though. The city approved a $750 million renovation of KeyArena — which was one of the biggest reasons the SuperSonics left Seattle in 2008 in the first place.
The renovations will start immediately after the exhibition game on Friday, and should have the “New Arena” at Seattle Center operational by 2020 or 2021. The move is critical in the city’s push to land an NHL team, a move it seems close to accomplishing.
If the NBA does decide to expand in the near future, Seattle isn’t alone on the list of potential cities. Kansas City has long been rumored to be on the short list, and Las Vegas has tremendous appeal — especially after the success of the Golden Knights in their inaugural season, the WNBA’s Vegas Aces’ move to the city and the Oakland Raiders’ impending move.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has also been focused on markets outside of the United States, namely Mexico City. The league has played regular season games there for years now, and will be launching a G League team there for the 2019-20 season.
So while a new arena is critical if the city is going to land a NBA team in the future, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. A lot of pieces still have to fall into place first.
What about the Grizzlies relocating to Seattle?
The only way Seattle could land a team sooner than 2025 would be if a team decided to relocate — and according to Windhorst, several prospective ownership groups have their eyes on the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies — who moved to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001 — have a window in their lease with the FedEx Forum to leave in 2021 should they choose to. However, per the terms of the lease, Memphis owner Robert Pera would need to sell the team in order for it to move.
And based on his actions this past offseason, it doesn’t look like Pera will do so. Pera agreed to buy out some of his minority owners earlier this year to retain controlling interest of the franchise, and appears committed to staying in Memphis.
While a lot can change before 2021, it seems the most likely route for a team to land in Seattle is still through expansion.
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