Six NBA franchises might be moving to a city near you
Originally Published: March 15, 2006By Chris Sheridan | ESPN Insider
Let's pull out the crystal ball, take a peek one decade into the future and handicap a few of the games on the imaginary NBA schedule:
The Kings of Las Vegas at Brooklyn Nets: Another jam-packed crowd of nearly 20,000 is expected at the sparkling new arena above the old Atlantic Railyards as the Nets play host to the Kings. The Kings left Sacramento behind after commissioner David Stern stunned the basketball universe at the 2007 All-Star Game when he announced an agreement with the Nevada Gaming Commission, which compromised by taking NBA games off the books in Sin City, but not in the rest of the state. Kansas City Hornets at Oklahoma City Magic: Should be about a 50-50 split in the stands between those who pledged their allegiance to the Hornets when they temporarily relocated from New Orleans and those who latched onto the replacement franchise that ditched its old digs near Disney World and moved to the nicest, newest arena in the Midwest. San Jose SuperSonics at Vancouver Trail Blazers: Remember back in the good ol' days when the laws of geography said the Sonics traveled south to play the Blazers? Things sure have changed since Paul Allen cut his losses and left the Rose Garden, the country's nicest tractor pull facility. Not many thought Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz would make good on his threat to leave Seattle, but San Jose's final sweetener -- replacing low-fat milk with frappucinos in the city's public schools -- sealed the deal. Anaheim Clippers at East Rutherford Knicks: Some still blame Isiah Thomas' leadership for the sequence of events that forced the Knickerbockers to abandon their original city of New York, but the real blame lies in former owner James Dolan's decision to ignore the decrepit state of Madison Square Garden with the same nearsightedness that caused him to miss the wireless television revolution. After selling the franchise to the New Secaucus Seven, Dolan took a job as cabana boy for multibillionaire Donald Sterling, whose fiscal responsibility was actually ridiculed a generation ago. OK, maybe that's stretching the limits of future shock by mixing in a few too many absurdities. But the fact remains that the NBA is on the precipice of moving into an era of franchise relocation unlike anything the league has experienced since the 1970s, when four teams -- the Rockets, Kings, Clippers and Jazz -- called in the long-haul moving trucks and three others -- the Nets, Bullets and Warriors -- relocated within their geographical regions. Stern's league went through an era of relative tranquility in the late 1980s and through the '90s when 16 years elapsed between the move of the Kings from Kansas City to Sacramento and the move of the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001. The Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans one year later, only to pick up and move again this season when Hurricane Katrina forced them into their temporary digs in Oklahoma City. But the travels of the Grizzlies and Hornets could be just the tip of the iceberg, depending on how events play out over the next couple of years, with a full 20 percent of the league's 30 teams -- the Nets, Trail Blazers, Kings, Supersonics, Magic and Hornets -- either openly seeking to relocate or actively discussing the possibility of setting up shop in new cities. The Milwaukee Bucks would be on that list, too, if their owner, Wisconsin senator Herb Kohl, sells the team to someone who would move them out of Milwaukee. As it is, the Bucks are on a year-to-year lease as they lobby for a new building to replace the 18-year-old Bradley Center, a facility that -- like a few others around the league -- does not have enough luxury boxes and club seats to generate the large revenue streams needed to compete in this day and age when nearly every NBA player is a millionaire. "I always viewed leaving a city as a failure," Stern said last week in New Orleans. "I now understand these things go in cycles." Here, then, is a look at the situation of each of the six franchises, with a prediction on where each team will end up.
Fernando Medina/Getty ImagesIn the future, Vince Carter may not be playing in New Jersey. But the Knicks might be.