NBA might expand to Montreal and back to Vancouver one day, commissioner Adam Silver says

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Canada hasn’t had two NBA teams since the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis more than two decades ago, but that might change one day, according to Adam Silver.

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The NBA commissioner went on the Boston Celtics broadcast on Monday and mused about international expansion, with games recently being played in Mexico City.

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It’s well known that Seattle will get a team back and Las Vegas likely will be added too the next time the league expands — expected to happen sometime after a new broadcast deal is signed by the league, keeping the expansion teams out of that pie — but it’s news that other cities might also be in play, particularly Canadian ones.

Silver said both Vancouver and Montreal want teams.

“That’s become a great basketball market,” Silver said of Canada as a whole. “It began so much as a hockey market when we first expanded there (in 1993 for Toronto, a year later for Vancouver, with both starting in the 1995-96 season).

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“I will say the Toronto Raptors have done a good job of making themselves Canada’s team. I know there’s interest from Montreal,” Silver said. “There’s still ongoing interest in Vancouver.

“Young people love basketball now. Obviously, they still love their hockey there, but there will be more opportunity over time.”

Raptors Montreal
Toronto Raptors players wear Montreal t-shirts while warming up prior to their National Basketball League pre-season game against the Washington Wizards in Montreal Friday October 23, 2015. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Montreal and Vancouver consistently have hosted exhibition games, some featuring the Raptors, some with other teams, for years now.

During one such gathering in 2018, this corner was at a media conference where a group of Quebec business people supported by the Montreal Chamber of Commerce said they had begun process of convincing NBA Montreal is a viable location. They said they knew the league wasn’t currently considering expansion, but the “goal (is) to be ready the day that opportunity comes along.”

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Five years ago, Silver told CBC “In retrospect, I wish we had a team in Vancouver right now. I think Canada could handle two NBA teams.”

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The Grizzlies battled a weak Canadian dollar, change-of-ownership shenanigans, terrible roster building and more, but still sold well in their initial seasons. Had Steve Nash been drafted to B.C.’s team instead of all the other point guards they ran through, they might still be playing there.

Once Seattle returns to the NBA, Vancouver could become a natural rival and Montreal could be the same for the Raptors. While the idea is probably a long shot, you never know what might happen down the line.

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