NBA committee to study Las Vegas proposal

Updated: April 20, 2007, 6:40 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Vegas, baby? The NBA is going to have a committee look into it.

The NBA's Board of Governors decided Thursday to have commissioner David Stern appoint a committee of owners from some of the league's most stable franchises to look into all aspects of the possibility of there one day being an franchise in Las Vegas.

Would it be an existing team or an expansion team? What would the relocation or expansion fee be? Would that market be able to sustain an NBA franchise, especially if a new arena was built downtown instead of near the mega-resorts on the Strip? Those are among the questions the committee will pursue after it is formed in the next few weeks.

"We're delighted that a committee is being formed," Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman told The Associated Press, adding that he looks forward to "addressing all of their issues."

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the committee will be comprised of owners from the league's most stable franchises so there would be no conflict of interest by having an owner on the committee who might himself be interested in relocating his franchise. In other words, don't expect Clay Bennett of the SuperSonics (possibly relocating from Seattle in one year), George Shinn of the Hornets (lease in New Orleans expires in 2012) or Sen. Herb Kohl of the Bucks (operating on a year-to-year lease in Milwaukee) to be on the committee.

Publicly, the NBA remains opposed to allowing a franchise in Las Vegas as long as the local casino industry continues to accept wagers on pro basketball games.

Las Vegas and Clark County officials submitted a proposal to the league last month that included no change to current gambling rules, a proposal that was reviewed by the owners before they decided to form a committee.

"The letter did not represent a change in position, and we had not requested a change in position," Silver said. "Having a committee look at every aspect of the possibility is actually a meaningful step."

Goodman said a request for proposals on funding a new arena went out Thursday. The NBA does not consider UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, where the All-Star Game was held, modern enough to fit the league's needs.

Stern said the Sonics updated the board on the "disappointing week that they had there in terms of not even a vote on their measure."

Washington's legislative leaders recently announced they wouldn't vote during the current session on a proposal to use county taxes to help build a new $500 million arena in the Seattle suburb of Renton.

The Sonics' lease at Key Arena runs through 2010, but the Sonics aren't obligated to play in Seattle past next season without a new arena deal, and Bennett said after the failed vote measure that he doubted they would do so.

Oklahoma City would seem to be the likely destination if the Sonics do move, since Bennett is from there and the city strongly supported the Hornets over the last two seasons. But nothing was decided this week.

"There's no current Plan B," Stern said. "There's a willingness by the team to meet with any and all who are in Seattle."

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.