14 February 2007

NBA softens stance on Vegas

David Stern may be getting ready to open the Pandora's Box that is Las Vegas. reports that the NBA commissioner and Sin City mayor Oscar Goodman may be close to bridging a philosophical gap that kept a NBA franchise out of the city. Stern, who previously has refused to buckle on his stance to never place a team in Vegas unless the city's casinos take NBA games off the books, appears open to a compromise.

Such a compromise could involve two things:
  • Betting for the Vegas team's games would be prohibited (a.k.a. "UNLV rule'). This is a major concession by Stern, one that could be an admission of how outdated the pro sports leagues' thinking is about gambling and especially Vegas. There's no way that any league will win this battle with the gaming industry, not even the NFL. The UNLV rule dictated that all state university football and basketball games (Nevada and UNLV) be taken off area sports books.
  • The majority of owners would have to approve of having a team in Vegas. While the NBA doesn't have antitrust protection over its franchises like MLB, moves generally aren't done without the consent of the owners' fraternity and the commish. Recognizing the dollar signs and the lackluster performance of the newer Southern franchises (New Orleans, Memphis), having a NBA franchise in Vegas would certainly boost league revenues over most other mid-markets, including Sacramento. The difference this time is that Stern revealed that he wouldn't "stand in the owners' way" if a Vegas team was what they really wanted.
Speaking of Sactown, the Maloofs have preemptively announced that they're committed to staying in Sacramento, even though they're pulling out all the stops as hosts for All Star Weekend and have no Sactown arena deal in sight.

Stern qualified his statement by saying that the two sides aren't close to coming to an agreement, a perfectly diplomatic thing to say if you don't want to piss off existing constituent cities. As the prospect of a NBA team looms closer, the question becomes: Will it be an expansion team or a relocation? Expansion would net a nice franchise fee ($500 million), but it would also further dilute an already questionable talent pool. Relocation might make the most sense considering the dearth of cities willing to pay for new arenas (see Seattle, Sacramento), but obviously the franchise fee wouldn't be there.

Las Vegas Kings? Sounds fitting for the hyperbole-driven city.