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Don’t expect an NBA team in Las Vegas anytime soon

Think of the NBA and its perception of Las Vegas as the weekend tourist who only takes in the best sights, who catches a show and enjoys a wonderful meal and gambles just enough to experience the rush but not to the point of losing next month’s mortgage.

I’m not sure the league much cares about what is going on in Summerlin or Henderson, or that it feels a need to investigate much of anything beyond the bright lights and buffets that line the Strip.

Adam Silver is the weekend tourist in a suit, an NBA commissioner who understands his league has created a positive and favorable niche for itself here and doesn’t seem all that motivated to expand such a presence.

He’s smart that way.

"The (summer in Las Vegas) has become a major fixture on the NBA calendar," Silver said. "When you take into account summer league rosters, the team executives, the league executives that are here, the fact we have a Board of Governors meeting here, we have nearly 4,000 people in town, and that doesn’t include the thousands of guests who come to Las Vegas to follow the summer league.

"This is, in essence, a major NBA convention in Las Vegas in the month of July, which to me is far more impactful than any regular-season game we can bring here."

Translation: Jason Kidd and Rashad Vaughn aren’t making the town their professional home any time soon.

Peter Feigin might have grandstanded his way to some headlines recently when the Milwaukee Bucks president made clear that if public funding wasn’t used for a new downtown arena in Milwaukee, the NBA would relocate the team to Las Vegas or Seattle, but his was more flimsy talk than substantive rhetoric.

It was a typical negotiating ploy of trying to gain leverage by threatening something that has little chance of happening.

A vote among Wisconsin state Senate leaders on the proposed $250 million of public funding for the arena could occur today, and it’s Silver’s every hope and expectation it will pass and Bucks management no longer will speak about relocation.

Face it. Even if the vote doesn’t go the way of the Bucks, Seattle is a far more deserving destination for an NBA team today than Las Vegas. When the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder, it had nothing to do with a Seattle fan base not supporting its team and everything to do with owner Clay Bennett lying about his intentions to relocate the team.

Seattle has a big problem in that it lacks a suitable arena to house an NBA team, but otherwise its worthiness to be first in line for any available franchise is unquestioned.

And still, no one really believes the Bucks are going anywhere.

Silver also has been incredibly consistent on this: One of his main objectives is to ensure the financial health of 30 current franchises, that his is not a league looking to expand any time soon, that it’s far more important to strengthen what the NBA has than consider adding to it while continuing to build a global brand, that a significant number of teams are still losing money because expenses exceed revenue.

And most believe Silver, unlike when those in the NHL were suggesting the same sorts of things before officially beginning the expansion process this month.

The NHL is expected to grant Las Vegas its first major league professional sports franchise in September, an expansion team that will be owned by billionaire Bill Foley and play in the new MGM-AEG Arena behind New York-New York.

They are different animals, the NBA and NHL. Different in most every way.

But it also would make sense for Silver’s league to view from afar how the market embraces and supports hockey.

Why not evaluate to what level the guinea pig is accepted?

"There are no obstacles whatsoever in terms of the city to us coming to Las Vegas," Silver said. "We had an All-Star Game here (in 2007). We chose to put our largest summer league here. We have never suggested the fact sports betting takes place legally in Las Vegas is an impediment to us coming here. The reception we have received from this community has been terrific.

"The ultimate issue is that we are just not in an expansion mode right now. It doesn’t mean that expansion will never be in our future, but it’s just not at the moment."

The weekend tourist who doesn’t lose a boatload of money almost always enjoys spending time here. Adam Silver likes the niche his league has developed in Las Vegas. It’s all bright lights and shows and wonderful meals for several weeks each July.

Why mess with a proven formula when change isn’t needed?

He’s smart that way.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on "Seat and Ed" on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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