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March 27, 2008 1:37 PM

Stern ambiguous on Seattle expansion

Posted by Percy Allen

NBA Commissioner David Stern dodged questions this afternoon during a national teleconference call when asked if the league would expand to 32 teams in light of the Sonics likely move to Oklahoma City.

He also declined to articulate how the league justifies leaving a big market such as Seattle for a smaller market, but said cities of comparable size to Oklahoma City have run successful franchises.

Here's a transcipt of the final four questions pertaining to the Sonics during the Commissioner's address.

(Your thoughts on expansion to 32 teams) "I think in fairness to your question, I think what I would like to do is say that in light of the swirling events and the continuing litigation and the to and fro with respect to the Sonics, I'd like to take the opportunity to impose a gag on myself and allow speculation to grow in whatever way is constructive. The one thing I would say is that we'd like to make it clear that the Sonics proposed move is not a question of fan support, but an issue of arena capability and the path by which we got to the place where they issued, where they proposed or applied to move. But I think that our history speaks for itself and depending upon the circumstances under which we depart cities that has something to do with our ability and willingness and speed in returning."

(Regarding Seattle, would you consider expansion to 32 teams?) "It's not tops on our list. There are very strong owner reaction at the present to expansion. But at the same time there's a very strong recognition because of the pressures of revenue sharing that a particular city that we currently have can support a team, we should consider moving them to cities that can. I'm not totally on board with that approach, but it's increasingly gaining some steam among a strong group of owners."

(At a time when you're pushing for a global league, how do you view a possible franchise move to smaller U.S. market) "I'm going to continue my gag. I said what I was going to say out in Oklahoma and I don't want to start, I don't want to get specific here either other than to say that one of the things that we've done at the league and tried successfully to do is find a way of operating in our league through collective bargaining (inaudible) that would support a team that was well managed in markets the size of San Antonio, Memphis, Orlando, Portland, Salt Lake City. In most cases single team franchises, single sport cities really so you can understand that's not a subject that scares us."

(There seems to be a pattern in how the owners have voted in the past three relocation applications, with two being unanimous and the other being 28-1. What do you make of that pattern?) "I don't make anything of its. I didn't remember it until you told me."

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