Whenever David Stern, Billy Hunter or Derek Fisher say anything, you have to take it with a grain of salt. All three of these guys are extremely smart and extremely strategic in the words they choose and each comment seemingly has a purpose.
When Stern went on Bill Simmons' podcast and suggested the owners would be open to contraction, it was partly a threat to the players saying agree with us or we will cut jobs. The players responded with a "go ahead" stating they might be in favor of contraction if it will help the league reach the solvency it says it lacks. Contraction does not feel like a real possibility because no owner is going to volunteer himself out of the "club" even if he is losing tons of money on his team -- despite the financial problems of several teams, they are still being sold for extraordinary amounts.
It is always going to be like that. Many business owners who are sports fans want in on the ownership club. There is a prestige about it.
A new study from The Business Journals' On Numbers blog suggests that more than 20 non-NBA markets would be able to support an NBA team should any owner decide to move a team or should the league decide to expand (not likely any time soon).
As we saw when Anaheim quickly moved to entice the Kings into moving to Southern California, cities are like these new owners. They will line up quickly to join the club of having a professional sports team. That is why civic movements to keep the Kings in Sacramento and the Sonics/Thunder in Seattle gained a ton of traction with the public and politicians.
There is prestige in this. And if a team ever decided to move, these cities would be first in line.
G. Scott Thomas of The Business Journal wrote the report looked specifically at income base in these cities in determining whether they would be viable markets.
"An NBA team, according to the study, requires an income base of $34.2 billion for adequate support. Twenty-two open markets are above that threshold, earning perfect scores on a 100-point rating scale.
Seattle, for example, has TPI of $176.1 billion. Its baseball, football and soccer teams need a combined base of $137.5 billion, leaving $38.6 billion in available personal income, more than enough for the NBA."
Of course, we all know Seattle may be able to support an NBA team, but they don't have the stadium to do so. That pretty much makes them ineligible for the moment to return the Sonics.
The report lists Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., as the market with the most available personal income. Being just outside Anaheim, it makes sense the Maloofs would look into moving into the nearly-NBA ready Honda Center. Other markets in the top 10 include Montreal, Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn., Las Vegas, Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Providence, Austin, Hartford, San Jose and Richmond. Of those, San Jose is the only city with a professional sports franchise that could hold an NBA team -- the San Jose Sharks' HP Pavilion.
Seattle came in 16th on the list with an estimated $38.5 billion remaining of personal income. Notably, Louisville, WNBA-market Tulsa and even Honolulu cracked the list of cities able to support and NBA team.
Also notable, Vancouver received a borderline rating. So did basketball's birthplace, Springfield, Mass. Popular moving destinations like St. Louis or Kansas City were deemed insufficient for supporting an NBA team.
The NBA is not looking to expand at this point. Contraction has been suggested, but does not seem realistic either. But it would not be surprising for owners in unsatisfactory markets to look into moving their franchises someplace that could work.
These are perhaps concerns for a time when the collective bargaining agreement and the NBA's new business model are settled. But I am sure the cities high up on this list will come waving it as a flag to get their NBA team.
Photos via DayLife.com.