The NBA wants to expand to Europe, and the NBA commissioner has said it is the league’s “manifest destiny” to get there eventually. This is a stupid idea for two big reasons, and the owners need pull back this ambition for the good of the game and the good of the league.
First of all, travel would be a nightmare. East and west coast teams already have travel issues and a time difference of three hours. Multiply that time and travel difference for teams in the continental USA (especially teams on the West Coast) and you have a real mess. It would be fundamentally unfair for the road teams when the US teams play the European teams, because of long travel times and the language and cultural barriers.
I am not sure what the NBA is thinking here. I cannot understand why they think this will work logistically over the course of an 82 game season. We found out about a decade ago with playoff seeding that the NBA was in desperate need of a calculator, and now they are apparently in desperate need of a map and a basic First Grade geography lesson. This is not a one-time tournament where teams from all over the world converge, like the Olympics. This is a grind that is several months long – not even counting the playoffs and the logistical challenge of those games.
Even if the logistical issues could be solved (hint: they will not be) further expansion would damage the product. Every time the league adds a team, there are twelve players who would not have made an NBA roster the season before. Imagine of the NBA slashed four teams, down to 26 franchises. The good players on the eliminated teams would make their new teams much better, and you would have fewer truly unqualified players on the court.
There has already been some complaining the last few seasons about the lack of good rivalries, and part of that is that teams see each other much less than they did 30 years ago. Adding four more teams, in addition to adding 48 players who could not make a roster today, would further make rivalries less meaningful because the schedule would be more diluted than it already is. Plus, no American team is going to have a true rivalry with a European team.
From a business standpoint, I understand the desire to expand to Europe. Every business wants to expand its customer base. But there are good ways to expand and there are bad ways to expand. Putting four NBA franchises in Europe is the latter, not the former. This is an idea that should never be more than a fantasy.