There’s a fantastic report from SB Nation site Sonics Rising on the possibility of the NBA considering expansion to the cities of Seattle and (most likely) Louisville. The NBA’s connection with Seattle is obvious, but Louisville once had an ABA team and Kentucky is an historically great basketball state.
Bringing basketball back to Seattle is a cool idea. Bringing basketball to another big market that would help balance out the East-West ratio is also cool. But expansion?
Expansion is not cool.
The NBA — despite being, for the most part, a highly competitive league — just experienced several years of drastic imbalance between its two conferences. The league should see a little more parity now that Miami’s Big 3 has broken up and mid-level contenders like the Hornets and Wizards add veteran pieces, but things were rough there for awhile. There are enough players sitting on the ends of benches around the league that make us scratch our heads and go “Chris Smith? Really?” Adding two more teams and diluting the product even more is counter-intuitive. We want better games, not more of them.
Instead, the NBA needs to take a hard look at which franchises actually add value to the league — both financially and from a branding or cultural standpoint — and consider relocating them to Seattle, and Louisville, and Las Vegas, and Kansas City.
For example, we’ve been talking about the Clippers a lot around here. Why are the L.A. Clippers a team, again? It was only recently that they became relevant, and they quickly became embroiled in a horrifying scandal thanks to their racist, shithead owner — who had been a racist shithead for many years prior. And Clippers fans, we know you’re out there, but your team plays in the same building as the Lakers. Can you imagine another football team playing in Heinz Field with the Steelers? The Clippers are a redundancy in L.A. Their new owner (if he ever does become the owner) is from Seattle. He could make that move happen.
If the league wants to add a team in Louisville, the Bucks and Kings are prime options as teams that have been on the verge of moving for years anyway. I don’t like the idea of taking a team from a fan base that loves them, but it will only be harder for the Bucks to become relevant if two more teams are around to grab potential building blocks. The long-term viability of the league depends on putting out the best product possible, which unfortunately is larger than the desires of any one city.
Another option would be expanding the D-League into these markets and continuing to brand it as the NBA’s minor league system — one that’s worthy of watching on a regular basis. If every NBA team had a corresponding D-League affiliate, you could conceivably have Seattle fans rooting for the Thunder (if the guys training on the Seattle D-League team made the jump to OKC) and Louisville fans rooting for the Kings. It’s a much lower-stakes way of pushing into undeveloped markets (which is to say, cities that don’t currently have a team).
Either way, the NBA shouldn’t be adding more NBA teams to its roster. It should be thinking outside the box, or at the very least be willing to disassemble the box to create an even better, cooler box, one that Seattle is once again a part of, and Donald Sterling’s legacy is not.
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