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Potential Las Vegas NBA team comes with big price tag

Updated January 9, 2021 - 8:46 am

If Las Vegas is to land an NBA expansion team, it will cost local ownership billions of dollars.

ESPN quoted unnamed sources saying the expansion fee will be in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion for each of two teams.

That would be more than the $1.66 billion the Utah Jazz sold for last month. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who are on the market, have been valued at between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion, according to ESPN.

NBA expansion became a topic when league Commissioner Adam Silver answered a question during a media session in December. He is careful with his words, so the fact Silver gave credence to the issue raised eyebrows.

“We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic,” Silver said at the time. “But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”

Silver has spoken specifically about returning an NBA team to Seattle, which is refurbishing Climate Pledge Arena at a cost of $930 million, according to the Seattle Times.

Las Vegas often is mentioned in reports as the second city to be invited, with Mexico City its likely top contender for a spot. The NBA placed a G League team in Mexico City that was supposed to debut this season, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the entire league to move to the Disney World complex near Orlando, Florida.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman spoke with Silver last month and said the commissioner had not “had a single conversation” with any prospective expansion cities. A spokesman for the mayor said Thursday there was no update from the city’s end.

Even if NBA expansion seems inevitable, it doesn’t appear imminent.

For one thing, there isn’t pressure to act quickly. The NBA had enough cash to provide the 30 teams with $30 million apiece, Sports Business Journal reported, to make up for revenue lost by not having fans at games. It was able to hand out that kind of largesse despite missing projected revenues last season by $1.5 billion, according to The Associated Press.

Some teams are in places with more lenient city and state restrictions regarding fan attendance, and the fact they are still playing without crowds shows the NBA is not desperate at this point to chase expansion fees.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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