February 17, 2011
Could the NBA be returning to Vancouver? Perhaps, but we should all slow down a tad. Because you're not going to get out of a discussion regarding the movement of NBA franchises without some hurt feelings emanating from the cities in question.
New Orleans has clearly taken to their Hornets, and the attendance has been good enough for the team to keep its lease, but there are significant and legitimate concerns about the area's ability to support an NBA franchise moving forward. Though we'd love to see those Hornets thrive in that city.
Seattle? A fantastic burgh, one that had a team taken from it by an owner who lied through his teeth, sold to him by an ex-owner (and I write this sheepishly, with a large-sized iced green tea from Starbucks right next to me) in Howard Schultz, who completely sold out his adopted hometown of Seattle. And while that was all very unseemly, there was the unfortunate part where the city declined, time and again, to build an NBA-level building for the former SuperSonics.
Oklahoma City? Clearly deserves an NBA team, and we're loving the Thunder's initial few years in Oklahoma. Pity that the ownership group is full of duplicitous lunkheads.
Vancouver? With Stu Jackson running things, the city never had a chance.
Memphis? One of my favorite cities, but has owner Michael Heisley mortgaged his way into a corner with the team?
So it's a big mess, throughout. But the NBA's return to gorgeous British Columbia could be in order, if things fall into place with the Hornets of New Orleans.
Sources say [Vancouver Canucks chairman Francesco] Aquilini, whose family owns the NHL's Canucks but was never involved with basketball's Vancouver Grizzlies, is inspecting the Hornets, who are being sold by the NBA and could be relocated in the next few years. During an interview this week, commissioner David Stern said Vancouver is one of several markets interested in a relocated NBA franchise, and went out of his way to praise the strong business performance of the Canucks.
Aquilini did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. One source familiar with his NBA flirtations said Aquilini would require partners to finance a purchase, but that the NBA is impressed with the family's stewardship of the Canucks.
"We've had visits from, believe it or not, Vancouver, where the Canucks are absolutely doing a spectacular job," Stern told ESPN.
(The orignal quote, from Stern, can be heard on Bill Simmons' podcast interview with the NBA commish.)
I'm hardly the type to tell you about Vancouver's feasibility as an economic outfit worth an NBA team, but the area is beautiful, and the old Grizzlies were really hamstrung by terrible personnel moves by Stu Jackson, and the prohibitive rules set in place by the NBA regarding its new expansion franchises in 1995 (limited the teams' chances at winning the draft lottery).
It would be nice to see the city get another chance. It wouldn't be nice to see yet another great North American city lose out on another NBA team, though.