NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed Monday that the league has examined previous analysis into expansion but adding new teams is still not “on the front burner.”
The Charlotte Bobcats — now known as the Hornets — were the most recent franchise to join, taking the total to 30 in 2004. Toronto and Vancouver were new in 1995 as the NBA moved into Canada, though the latter relocated to Memphis after the 2000-01 season.
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Speaking to the media on the eve of a new season, Silver confirmed that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic prompted the NBA to “dust off” data on the impact of expanding in the future.
“I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point,” Silver told reporters. “I’d say it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion.
“We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic, but certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”
Competitive balance remains key for Silver, who acknowledged those who have made clear their enthusiasm to host a team.
“You know, we’re very appreciative of the markets that have indicated an interest in having an NBA team,” Silver said.
“One of the issues for the league office, and this comes up all the time in terms of competitiveness, it’s not a secret that we don’t have 30 competitive teams at any given time right now when you go into the season, measured by the likelihood of ability to win a championship.”
Silver also addressed the possibility of the NBA returning to a bubble for the playoffs next year. It finished the 2019-20 season in Orlando because of COVID-19.
“It’s our hope that given the planned rollout of the vaccine that we’ll be going in the other direction, that it’ll become increasingly more likely that there will be a return to a home-court advantage,” he said.
“That come May, June, July, which right now our season is targeted to end mid-July, that by that point there really will be a meaningful opportunity to have fans in our building.”
The new season begins Tuesday. The Warriors will take on the Nets in Brooklyn before the Lakers and Clippers meet in Los Angeles.