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Who's Moving?

Michael.S.
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Who's Moving?

Intiwesting article , Hoopsworld

A quick trip down Interstate 90 in Upstate New York can remind us how much the NBA has changed.

Syracuse gives way to Rochester before arriving in Buffalo—one former NBA city after another. But the Nationals, Royals and Braves (or 76ers, Kings and Clippers as they are now known) did share the same nomadic urges that exist in the modern league.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, the New Orleans Hornets and now, possibly, the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats might join the migration.

So, in the interest of extinguishing some rumors and preventing cities from suffering the same fate as Seattle (where I-90 ends, ironically), HOOPSWORLD would like to set the record straight.

Who's Moving?

The Nets still hope to begin building (and sell $850 in bonds to back construction costs) by the end of the year, but the trip over the Hudson River is proving far more complicated than anyone could imagine.

In February of 2007 things looked like they were about to get under way—then someone hit the breaks

The economy plummeted, citizen groups protested the project and everything became gridlocked with legalities. Debates over eminent domain ensued all the while Nets Owner Bruce Ratner was rumored to be looking for investors to help fund the project.

The good news for Ratner and the Nets is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on their side. And, assuming he holds onto that post, the local government should remain accommodating.

Even though there is the perfectly new Prudential Center (home of the NHL's Devils) sitting in Newark, the Nets desire an arena of their own. Even if the Atlantic Yards project doesn't reflect architect Frank Gehry's original design, the Barclays Center will eventually be built.

Currently the Nets rank 25th in the NBA in attendance while playing in East Rutheford's Izod Center.

As for the rumors concerning the Grizzlies and Bobcats: don't buy them.

The Grizzlies are tied to the FedEx Forum whether they outsell the Memphis Tigers or not. Their agreement with the city already stipulates they can't move without significant penalties for the next 17 seasons.

Even though Memphis' WREG reports that the Grizzlies could move by 2014 if they don't average 14,000 fans, team owner Michael Heisley all but guaranteed the team is staying put.

"We made a 20-something year commitment and so on," Heisley said to WREG. "That's a huge length of time to make a commitment, okay? I would say, it's more likely they're going to tear this place down in 20-25 years than it is that we're going to leave… Let's put it this way, I'm 72, I'll probably be gone before the Grizzlies are gone."

Basically, the franchise can't leave Memphis without making a major payment (over $100 million if it relocates before Nov. 1 2012). Considering the team gave the league a $30 million relocation fee when it moved from Vancouver, it's hard to see Heisley wanting to jump through that hoop again.

The Grizzlies aren't going anywhere and the same can be said for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Charlotte City Attorney Mac McCarley sent around some information that stated that the team has an agreement with the city through 2029-2030.

If the team does decide to sell, the new owners would be subject to the current contract with the city. That means Charlotte could seek an injunction to force the franchise to pay damages. Depending on when the team moves, they could spend anywhere from $200,000,000 (before 2010) or $7,000,000 (after 2030).

So, even though some have recently speculated that the Bobcats would move if/when Bob Johnson sells the team, remember that the new owners would be firmly anchored to Charlotte.

If there is one team that could move more than a few miles, it's the Sacramento Kings.

They've already played in Rochester, Cincinnati and Kansas City, but if the Maloof brothers can't get a new arena squared away soon, they might be forced to pack up once again. 


The NBA is negotiating on their behalf but they'll have to come to a solution quickly. Many teams complained of losing money this season and the Kings' attendance ranked dead last.

The only other franchise with a chance to move is the Clippers, but that seems difficult as well.

The franchise ranks 25th in overall value according to Forbes and they would greatly change their fortunes if they owned their own arena.

On the other hand, the Clippers rent is less than $2 million per season and they're signed to that lease through 2014.

But if the Kings or Clippers were to move, where would they go?

Who Wants an NBA Team?

Las Vegas always seems to be the city atop everyone's list to land an NBA franchise, but the league just isn't interested.

The city lacks a decent arena, they've never had a major pro franchise in town and nobody can pin down exactly who the fan base would be.

Is the team intended for the less than two million residents of the Las Vegas metropolitan area? Is the team a tourist attraction like a Wayne Newton concert?

On top of all of that, Vegas' designated marketing area (DMA) ranks only 42nd in the United States behind powerhouses such as Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, PA. Of course, that still puts them ahead of Oklahoma City, Memphis and New Orleans, but all of those areas had been tested by pro franchises before the NBA put their current teams there.

If the Kings can't get a better arena in Sacramento, they would need to move to a DMA close to their current situation. If they didn't, they would devalue the entire league and the owners wouldn't approve any move that did that. In the interest of selling national advertisements, the NBA has to stay visible in the largest markets.

So, who does that leave?

Obviously Seattle has the size (their DMA rank is 14th in the U.S.) and the fan base, but the same issues that caused the Sonics to move still linger behind.

Key Arena isn't getting any younger and another attempt to build that $500 million arena won't be revisited by the city in this economy.

One team that is rooting for Seattle is their former tenant, the Thunder. Having already paid Seattle $45 million as part of a settlement, the franchise owes Seattle another $30 million if a new team doesn't move in by 2013.

For that to happen, though, something needs to be done with the arena.

On the bright side, Commissioner David Stern recently told a Seattle Times reporter that he hopes to see a team in Seattle in the near future and that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would be, "a hell of an owner."

One city that could be ready for an NBA team in the near future is St. Louis.

The Scottrade Center seats nearly 20,000 within its ultramodern walls. The NHL's Blues currently play there and the city itself is the 21st-ranked DMA.

One possible move for the Clippers (and a change of ownership might have to take place for this to happen) and the Kings is a move to Anaheim.

The Honda Center (home of the NHL's Ducks) can hold 17,608 fans for basketball games and offers the Clippers an alternative to sharing an arena with the Lakers. If the Honda Center could offer a similar lease after 2014 to the one that the Clippers currently enjoy at the Staples Center, a move could be profitable.

Don't forget that baseball's original model for Los Angeles in the 1960s could still apply. The league first went after urban dollars when the Dodgers arrived. And then, when they moved the Angels from Los Angeles to Anaheim, they discovered an entirely new fan base in the suburbs.

There are two other cities with modern arenas that could factor-in as well.

San Jose has the HP Pavilion which was completed in 1993 for the NHL's Sharks. The biggest obstacle in moving a franchise to San Jose would probably come from the Golden State Warriors that play in nearby Oakland. The HP Pavilion seats 18,500 for basketball games.

The other arena is currently being built in Louisville for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals. The project is about a year and a half away from being completed but will seat around 22,000 and include a 975-car parking facility, sufficient luxury suites and be ideally located on the banks of the Ohio River.

The idea of moving a team to Louisville (the 50th-ranked DMA) would become more attractive if anyone could guarantee that Cincinnati (34th-ranked DMA) residents would make the hour and a half ride to see games.

If a team were to move to Louisville, the Pacers might have some objection as they play less than two hours away in Indianapolis. The other major obstacle is the nature of basketball fans in Louisville and Cincinnati. Charlotte has always battled to win fans to the NBA in an area that prefers the college game and the borders of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana are no different.

Is anything really going to happen?

Well, probably not for the next two years, but if someone is to move it will most likely be the Kings.

Anaheim and St. Louis seem to have the best situations for NBA teams at the moment, but with some creativity Louisville could certainly join the pack.

Las Vegas, however, is a pipe dream.


Michael.S.
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sorry i posted 2 guys

sorry i posted 2 guys

QHaynes20
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I hope a team comes back

I hope a team comes back here to Syracuse.

BasketballGuru24
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They Need another team in

They Need another team in vancouver or somewere else in canada. A Canadian Rivalry will be nice

butidonthavemoney
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Guru

Canadians are too nice to be involved in a rivalry.

Alaska, Seattle and Kansas need some teams.

Michael.S.
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psssh they need a team in

psssh they need a team in BangCock

BasketballGuru24
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lool trust me......if you

lool trust me......if you watch hockey. Canadian rivalries are intense even for a regular season game.

butidonthavemoney
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mikenike

You spelled Bangkok wrong. Hahaha

I'll take your word for it Guru.

Kansas treats it's baseball team very well. Even though the Royals suck.

jerb2011
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The Thunder

are NOT moving the owner lives in OKC and that''s why he moved the team here.

cookielogic
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Yeah, the Royals do indeed

Yeah, the Royals do indeed suck like most Kansas City teams, but technically there are no major league teams in Kansas, the Royals and Chiefs play in Missouri. The MLS Wizards are currently playing in Kansas but their long term plans land them in a new facility on the Missouri side of the state line. And, if Kansas City ever got an NBA or a hockey team they too would play on the Missouri side of the line at the Sprint Center in KCMO.

butidonthavemoney
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Cookielogic

Interesting I didn't know that. I do know that Kauffman Stadium is beautiful...

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Lemons4Life
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...

Well based on the population and area attractions and crap I see these cities the most deserving:

St. Louis
Honolulu
Kansas City
Tampa (possibly move Orlando here)
Albuquerque
and
San Diego

jordanrose13
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Honolulu

Can they even build a building that big? I'm not familiar with Hawai'i but don't they have laws about the weight and height of buildings there?

MallStax5
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plus

the flight to hawii would be too long they cant mess with time zones on the consistant basis thats why the nfl only goes overseas once in the season and too me going all the way to hawaii is like going overseas even though its in the U.S. for most teams

BasketballGuru24
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St.Louis will Be a great

St.Louis will Be a great city to relocate

kacey
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Louisville

Thanks for the article mikenike.

I would love to see Louisville get a NBA franchise. They were on the list of possible cities when the Grizzlies and Hornets were relocating, but I think Pitino was completely against the idea of a NBA team playing in the same city as his Louisville Cardinals.

I wouldn't mind if St. Louis got a team either.

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