NBA Commissioner: Expansion not a priority

NBA Commissioner: Expansion not a priority
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball weekend, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

SEATTLE - If Seattle Sonics fans wanted a glimmer of hope of a quick return to the NBA, they didn't get it Saturday afternoon.

Newly-appointed commissioner Adam Silver gave his opinion about franchise expansion clearly.

"My job is to ensure that 30 teams are healthy and competitive and so that's what my priority is as opposed to expansion," Silver said.

It was Silver's first All-Star news conference since taking over for departed commissioner David Stern. Silver opened the news conference speaking about his personal life and how basketball helped him through his parent's divorce and how the game is poised for success in the future.

Silver takes over the league at an interesting time. Television contracts are beginning negotiations before they expire in 2016. Between cable, broadcast, and online streaming, Silver and the NBA want to create new revenue streams but that also will include possible options of expansion. Putting a new footprint in Seattle will open the league and sponsors up to the nation's 13th-largest television market.

Silver and league insiders have said that diluting talent in the NBA is a prime concern. Expansion would create at least one new team with even more players. The league already has little choice but to allow teams with losing records to reach the playoffs.

"We can do a better job on the competitive front as well," Silver said echoing worries about the talent level in the league.

The financial health of teams is a worry for the league. The Milwaukee Bucks are seeking a new arena and the current owner wants public money in order to make the building viable. Former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl also wants to bring in other co-owners into the team, but only if they vow to keep the Bucks right where they are.

Seattle's arena plan is still stalled and Saturday's news may change the timeline further. Based on Silver's comments, 2014 does not look to be a year for serious NBA talks in the Emerald City.

The NHL though is another matter entirely. Quebec City and Seattle are often discussed in talks of expansion in that league. Seattle council members and King County representatives have been  skeptical about the financial health of the arena with only the NHL as a tenant. There are also no serious plans for ownership in the way investor Chris Hansen has led the bid.

While Seattle thirsts for the green and gold, the NBA is content to stay put and keep 30 teams right where they are.