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Shaun Powell

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Relocating Chris Paul and the Hornets to another city likely isn't the best solution for the NBA.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Backing up the NBA moving trucks never a good thing


Posted Jan 19 2011 9:44AM

Most people move from one place to another for reasons: better job, nicer city, to be closer to family. All good reasons.

When NBA teams call the movers, it's rarely for good reasons: poor attendance, arena issues, ownership changes, etc. And lately, with the arguable exception of Seattle (which did support the Sonics) leaving for Oklahoma City, the "upgrade" from one city to another has been minimal at best.

The R-word (relocation) is being floated around in the NBA once again -- and not for fantastic reasons. The Hornets are reluctantly operating under the control of the league and staying in New Orleans, which is the goal, but not guaranteed. And there are whispers (though no official word from the team) that the Kings are looking into leaving Sacramento.

Here's the really bad news: The country is running out of places to go.

In an era of declining revenue for pro sports teams, plummeting TV ratings and a general refusal by municipalities and overstressed taxpayers to foot the bill for new arenas, the marketplace is just about tapped out.

Twenty or 30 years ago, this wasn't the case. Cities were throwing money at leagues and building arenas just to attract a pro team to boost civic morale, enhance the quality of life and to appear "big league." Imagine, Columbus and Raleigh, hardly considered major players on the map, were able to land NHL franchises. And in a reversal, an American game crossed the border when the NBA expanded into Toronto and Vancouver. Those were the days.

Now? There's no groundswell of support in, for example, Austin to go big time. For that matter, Los Angeles hasn't had an NFL team for 16 years. In tough times, the money and the interest aren't there to do what it takes to bring the NBA (or any other league) to town. For example:

Seattle: There's still a vibrant basketball fan base, although you wonder if the longer Seattle goes without basketball, the weaker the passion to bring basketball back will get. Plus, Seattle still has arena issues, and no dot-com or software billionaire (if any are left) has pledged to build one.

Kansas City: The Kings once split the difference between K.C. and Omaha, but could the NBA split up the professional sports pie between the Royals and Chiefs in what qualifies as a medium-sized Midwestern town? Probably not without a struggle.

St. Louis: See Kansas City.

Las Vegas: Once upon a time, Vegas was the Last Frontier, the empty nest that was drooled over by sports leagues who hesitated to act because of the gambling issue. Well, the desert has cooled, so to speak, after being punched in the stomach by the recession. And now, getting a sports team to Vegas is about as tricky as selling a house there.

Anaheim: The arena's there, and perhaps the support, although having a third NBA team in the Southern Cal market sounds very risky, especially if that team isn't ready to win. And of course, there's the stigma of being considered a Disneyland attraction. Donald Sterling didn't want the Clippers there, and even the baseball team renamed itself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That's something for the Kings to think about if moving south is being explored because of the Sacramento arena issue.

San Jose: This is perhaps the most attractive of the non-basketball cities, but San Jose doesn't have a track record of supporting more than one pro sports team.

Louisville: It's a college basketball town that lacks enough Fortune 500 companies needed to fill NBA luxury suites. You can almost see a team from Louisville suffering from small-market syndrome like New Orleans.

Chicago: A second team in the Second City? A team on the North Side to keep the Cubs company? Good luck building the arena and getting the Bulls to agree to that.

In all, this is hardly the ideal time to explore relocation. The Thunder got lucky in that Kevin Durant fell to Seattle in the Draft and has become a star since moving. Oklahoma City, with enough money and not enough else to do, has embraced the Thunder. But how many other Oklahoma Cities are out there?

Moving is never easy. Now, anyone who tries may well end up a victim of a new basketball defensive term: roadblocked.

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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