NEW YORK -- NBA Commissioner David Stern on Thursday threw some cold water on Seattle sportsfans' hopes for a return of professional basketball, saying that no team is currently available to relocate.
Stern, who also announced that he will retire in Feb. 2014, said his successor will likely be the one to decide on the matter.
"Seattle is very much in the mix," Stern said. "My guess is that all of that gets decided when Commissioner Silver [takes over. He] will have a really interesting issue on his plate," Stern added, referring to commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver.
The one good bit of news Stern had for Seattle was his answer to whether the league was open to expanding the number of teams.
"What I would say is I wouldn't preclude it," Stern said.
One NBA owner -- Dallas's Mark Cuban -- was more bullish on Seattle's chances for landing a team.
"With the pedigree that seattle has, the support they gave the Sonics for all those years -- if the opportunity arises -- there is no reason Seattle wouldn't be at the top of the list," Cuban said. However, Cuban – who voted against the Sonics move to Oklahoma City – said he does not believe expansion is on the horizon.
“Just cause of the way economics work, the way economics are structured now,” explained the Mavericks’ owner on a Manhattan sidewalk, “TV is the biggest share of shared revenue, so when you expand the traditional way is to collect an expansion fee but in reality because you’re reducing the amount of TV each team collects that’s not really new money for teams.”
Cuban did not want to suggest potential teams to relocate to Seattle, or did not make any reference to the uncertain future of the Sacramento Kings – whose future has been tied to the Seattle project.
“(Seattle) is a great community and it would be nice if we could return,” Stern said after the Thursday news conference. He admitted to meeting with Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. “I’ve met with them, I’ve met with them, and they seem devoted to the city, and it would be great.”
He also deferred to the NBA relocation committee to make a decision on a franchise.
That committee is headed by none other than Clay Bennett, who moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.
“I think very highly of Seattle and hopefully that things will work out and Seattle can have a team once again, and we’ll see how it goes, wonderful city, wonderful city,” Bennett said.
When asked about what his relocation committee will now do, he replied, “Right now, I have to go to the eye doctor.”
Committee member, and new Chairman of the Board of Governors, Peter Holt, said a bit more.
“Seattle is a great basketball town, now it has a hell of a lot of competition which makes it tough, but you gotta have a new arena, you gotta have it to exist,” said Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner. Is expansion a possibility for Seattle? “Can I say no comment?” said Holt, with a chuckle.
“I would say that’s something we will have to look into," Holt said. "As the economy comes backs we’re getting calls, calls from individuals who want to own teams and from cities, like we haven’t had for the last three years.”