NBA ‘Open’ To Team In Europe, But Travel, Venues Are Obstacles

Courtney Lee, Jeremy LambBOSTON — While Seattle pines for an NBA franchise, Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is looking in an entirely opposite direction of the Pacific Northwest.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver recalled a conversation he had recently with Pera, who at 35 is the league’s youngest owner. Pera was unconcerned that cities like Seattle and Las Vegas sit dormant during basketball season, Silver said. Pera was thinking bigger — and farther.

“Look at the size of London and Paris,” Pera told Silver. “Look at the opportunities.”

“What about travel?” Silver responded.

“Planes are going to become more sophisticated,” Pera purportedly said. “That’s going to solve our problem.”

Star Trek-type air travel is unlikely to develop in the next few years, but Pera’s enthusiasm and Silver’s willingness to discuss the topic suggests the NBA, like the NFL, has considered placing a franchise overseas in the future. In a conversation with author Malcolm Gladwell at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday, Silver said the NBA has considered placing a second team outside the bounds of the U.S.

“We’re open to it,” Silver said. “Right now, putting aside logistical issues, I don’t think Europe is ready for it (as far as venues). They have some facilities and the arena situation is close to being in place, but we’re some ways off.”

Of course, London isn’t Toronto. Players already struggle to maintain reasonable sleep patterns in the regular season when trekking from Houston to Milwaukee. The Concorde flew long trips in less than half the time it took normal commercial jets, but establishing a franchise in Europe would still mean many hours of air time per trip.

It would also mean drawing lots of ugly looks and shaken fists from the upset people of Seattle. Silver’s predecessor, David Stern, can tell him how that feels.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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