The NBA has too many teams.

There. I’ve set out the basic premise of this article in the very first line.

Last time, I discussed the problem of market size in the NBA. Part of the reason this is a problem is that the NBA simply over-expanded over the years, which has also served to dilute the talent of the league. Being top-heavy is one thing, but as I discussed before all teams should eventually have a fair shot at rising to the top.

In the past year, contraction has been one of the buzz-words around the league. It’s been used largely as a thinly-veiled threat by David Stern to the Player’s Association and in ill-informed statements by certain mental midget players.

It’s also been a subject that I’ve thought a fair bit about recently as I’ve considered the lockout.

The main argument against contraction is that there are cities out there that are clamouring for NBA teams – Seattle obviously at the top of that list, but Kansas City, St Louis and Vancouver are all potential targets, along with the possibility of Anaheim. However, there are arguments against all of them except Seattle (who will get a new team within the next few years) – specifically, the inherent small-market issues that I discussed in the last post.

There are four teams, in my opinion, that have to be the first considered for the axe (or at least, relocation) – the Grizzlies, the Hornets, the Bobcats and the Kings.

The reasons for them all aren’t hard to figure out. The Kings are bleeding money like a shooting victim and need a new arena. The Bobcats have never won a playoff game and struggle to draw fans in college basketball-obsessed Charlotte. The Hornets’ ownership issues and revenue problems are well documented and they’re gonna be a basket case as soon as Chris Paul bolts. And while the Grizzlies did well last year, before their playoff run they were another small-market team with an apathetic fanbase, no history to keep them alive and no clear future.

(Note 1: After the way Marc Gasol broke out last year, the roles that Darrell Arthur and Greivis Vasquez (the two guys taken with the picks they got from LA) played during the playoffs off the bench and the cap room that allowed them to trade for Zach Randolph which itself seemed like a bad idea at the time…does Grizz GM Chris Wallace win a Lifetime Achievement Award in the “I Told You So” category?)

Here’s my suggestions.

1) Move the Grizzlies to Seattle and make them the new Sonics.
Along with the refereeing scandals (specifically, the 2002 WCF and the 2006 Finals), the Sonics debacle and specifically the giant ass-raping handed out to the city of Seattle by the NBA will be the biggest black mark on David Stern’s legacy (unless this lockout turns really ugly, which it has the potential to do as I’ll discuss in the future). The least they deserve is a new team – by giving them the Grizzlies, they get a potentially really good one as well.
Let’s also not forget the war of attrition that was the Memphis-OKC playoff series and the seeds that were sown for a future rivalry there whatever the location. Imagine them in Seattle.

2) Move the Kings to Las Vegas.

There have been many reasons in the past to not put a team in Vegas – the gambling industry connection and the dilapidated arena being obvious ones. And indeed, the recent economic recession hit Las Vegas possibly worse than any other city in the USA. However, there’s been talk about putting a new arena in downtown Vegas for a while, built by private investors – build it and they should come. The Kings are a natural target for relocation to Vegas given the Maloofs’ ties to the city, which is the biggest population and TV market in North America without a major league team.

3) Move the Bobcats To Chicago, or Chop Them.
OK, I’ll be honest here – I totally stole this idea from Bill Simmons. I read it in one of his columns for his new website. At first, it seemed like a batshit crazy idea to me – but I thought about it and it kinda made sense.

The Chicago metropolitan area is more than big enough to support two NBA teams. Now it may seem like a major stretch to think that people are gonna abandon Da Bulls, but then remember who owns the Bobcats.

Yeah. That’s what I thought also.

This is the kind of crazy but doable idea the league should really be considering – but right now everyone seems to be playing hide and seek.
If this idea is unworkable or Jerry Reinsdorf raises all kinds of holy hell, then you gotta axe the Cats. I know Stern won’t do that to Michael Jordan in a hurry – but the city of Charlotte has now proven twice that it won’t support an NBA team.

4) Send the Hornets to the knackers.
I don’t like the idea of contracting a team. I know David Stern, the man with the power to do so, definitely doesn’t. In the case of the Hornets, however, I honestly can’t find a reason why they should stay. They play second fiddle to the Saints in a small market. They’re neck-deep in the red. Once Chris Paul leaves, they’re gonna be rooted on the court. And possibly most importantly, them being owned by the NBA makes them very easy to axe.

Obviously my first instinct was to look for a major market where they could move – but there aren’t really many opportunities there. The Baltimore-Washington area probably could fit another team (located in Baltimore), as could the Bay Area – but neither are sure things. Baltimore doesn’t have an arena, and the NBA already closed the possibility of their move to the Bay after rejecting Larry Ellison’s bid to buy the Hornets and move them to San Jose.

So realistically, in my scenario (because the odds of the NBA moving another team to Chicago are about as high as me having a night of passion and ecstasy with Bar Refaeli) you’d see two teams cut, one team moved to a city that never should have lost their team and the last to a city that should have one.

I’ll leave you now with the conversation I had with Fish when I told him my idea for moving the Kings.

“Out of Sacramento? Nah.”
“But…it’s to Vegas.”
“Wait. Did you say Vegas? Las Vegas?”
(long, dramatic pause). “Don’t fuck with me, bro.”

I told him he would be taking his fan talents to the Strip. I, meanwhile, am taking my talents to an early night. Next time I plan to look at revenue sharing.

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