Hard to believe, but the Sonics haven't played basketball in the city of Seattle for 10 years. Since then, fans continue to hear expansion rumors and Sonics fans are becoming restless and anxious for their team to return. Former Sonics play-by-play David Locke, and current voice of the Utah Jazz, joined The Ian Furness Show today to explain some of the behind-the-scenes movement involving expansion.
Locke said the league is most focused on an expansion franchise in Mexico City, which could be favorable for Seattle.
“So what I’m hearing in most regards to expansion is that the league really really really really badly wants to do Mexico City. It makes sense, Mexico City is the easy one to convince other owners of, (and) it’s a brand new revenue stream. It touches into a fan base that’s not been touched, a huge population base… They’re really trying to figure out if there’s a way to do Mexico City. If they can figure out Mexico City, they need two franchises, Seattle is the other franchise. The idea of a Kansas (City), Louisville, and Seattle, just for the sake of expansion, doesn’t move the meter very much for anyone right now. But the Mexico City one is the key.”
While some of the top teams in the league are in good shape financially, (i.e. Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics), the bottom teams, such as the Memphis Grizzles and New Orleans Pelicans are significantly suffering. Locke said New Orleans and Memphis are two teams that could potentially want to move.
“The other one… I would just keep an eye on is Memphis. Their ownership is really funky right now, and they are I believe 30 in the league in revenue. I would keep an eye on New Orleans whose ownership is funky, and they’re 29 in the league in revenue. In a league that is really heavily revenue shared, you could get an ownership... The owners could back an idea of a franchise moving, if it meant there was less revenue share.“
Locke said one of the other teams to watch is the Los Angeles Clippers, specifically what Steve Ballmer may do if Ballmer doesn't find a new home for the Clippers in L.A.
“I’m still watching Ballmer. I think it might be fruitless and I’ve convinced myself of this because I want a franchise in Seattle. But I would say in a much slower time table Steve Ballmer has followed all of the exact same steps that Clay Bennett did in Seattle. He’s not renewing the lease in his arena. He’s looking to buy a new arena, and he grabbed ownership of a franchise in a city other than the one he may or may not want to move it to. He may not want to move it, this may be all faulty. So the first premise of this concept would be that Ballmer is interested in having a franchise in Seattle. That may not be true, this is all hypothetical. If that’s not true, then this is all just ridiculous. If you follow the pattern and you assume the first thing to be true, which again, it may not be true… Clay Bennett bought the franchise, kept it in Seattle, didn’t renew the lease in KeyArena, said they wanted to build a new stadium, and then when that didn’t come through he then moved the franchise to Oklahoma City. A current owner will never be denied moving the franchise by the other 29 owners. It will never happen because they might want to move one day. There’s no chance that any (owner) is going to vote that down.”
Ballmer wants to build a new privately funded arena for the Clippers in the city of Inglewood, a neighboring suburb of Los Angeles. The arena would be adjacent to the new NFL stadium, owned by Rams owner Steve Kroenke, but the Clippers would remain in the Staples Center until at-least June 2024.
You can listen to Locke's full interview with Furness above or on the podcast, here.