As many of you might know, the NBA Summer League is currently going on in Las Vegas. This means it's a very convenient time to bring up the semi-regular discussion that always happens around now: the idea of an NBA team actually moving there.
It comes up a lot because David Stern has always been open to the idea, though that means something very different than saying he'd actually want it to happen. Plus, while I was in Vegas just now to cover Summer League, I asked practically every cab driver why no sports league considers moving a team out there, and they all responded with something to the effect of "Dude, did you see what happened at the 2007 NBA All-Star Game? No way." Vox Pop at its finest, folks.
So it's not a surprise that there are reports of an NBA team considering a move to Vegas right now. Except this time, those reports might actually be serious.
The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that an investment group called International Development Management LLC is on the cusp of purchasing an NBA team and moving it to Las Vegas. There's only one holdup, and it's a big one: they want to build an arena on the strip.
For the deal to go through, said Chris Milam, CEO of International Development Management LLC, the group must strike a deal with the county to fund construction of the arena - dubbed the Silver State Arena - slated for the old Wet 'n Wild water park site.
"We have an NBA team under contract," Milam said, declining to name the franchise. But the deal will take effect only if "other pieces of the puzzle fall into place: One of those pieces will be that a building (arena) is approved," he said.
(Hold up: an arena on the Strip called the "Silver State Arena?" Awesome! Well, except for the traffic).
Milam is trying to sell Las Vegas officials on financing the arenas through something known as tax-increment financing, which is described in detail in the article. Milam is also trying to convince city officials that having an NBA team would create more jobs and generally be a revenue stream for the city, which is something the brand-new Aria Resort, which has a brutal 63-percent occupancy rate in its first quarter, would probably disagree with. It all sounds like a far-fetched plan.
But the fact that Milam has an NBA team "under contract" is a huge game-changer. And since we're sports fans, not Las Vegas city politics fans (for the most part), we want to speculate on which team that actually is. Some possibilities:
Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are mentioned specifically in the article because Karen Davidson, the widow of the long-time owner Bill Davidson, has said the team is for sale. Detroit's economy, of course, is getting killed, and that, combined with the team's increased struggles, has caused the Palace of Auburn Hills to be sparsely populated, even though it's outside of the city. Odds: 3-1
New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets' money problems are no secret, and they just fired the very competent Jeff Bower as their GM. Oh, and they might trade away their best asset in Chris Paul. Also, they're probably for sale, though you never know with George Shinn. Odds: 3-1
Sacramento Kings: The Kings appear to have stabilized themselves a bit more financially thanks to the addition of Tyreke Evans, but considering the Maloof brothers' connection to Las Vegas and the Palms, as well as their own struggles trying to build a new arena in Sacramento, they are always a candidate. Odds: 6-1.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies' lease in Memphis runs through the 2020/21 season, but consider that this is the same team that a) is squabbling with first-round pick Xavier Henry over paying him 120-percent of the mandatory rookie scale contract, and b) freaked out and signed Rudy Gay to a max contract right away because they were worried about having to match a contract for the same amount of money long-term, except frontloaded where Gay would make more in Year 1. They're a bit frugal with money, to put it nicely. Anyway, it's going to take time for Las Vegas to build this arena, so by then, we'll be closer to the end of their lease in Memphis. Odds: 12-1.
Indiana Pacers: Yes, they're playing in the basketball mecca of Indiana. But have you seen those crowds? Also, long-time owner Herb Simon passed away this year, so there's at least a little bit of an ownership gap. Odds: 15-1.
Minnesota Timberwolves: They're off the radar, but their arena is pretty old and their team is probably going to be terrible for a long time. Remember: this Las Vegas team is probably going to be a long-term idea, and in three years, if Ricky Rubio doesn't come over, what kind of assets do the Timberwolves have? Odds: 30-1.
Miami Heat: Because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will get hurt, and the fans will stop supporting them. Odds: 1,000,000-1.
The crazy part about this whole scenario is that it means Las Vegas could get a new team before Seattle. If Seattle fans hadn't given up on the NBA already, this would certainly drive them away.