At this point, even the most hardcore of WNBA fans have become lukewarm on any news regarding expansion.
Do not get us wrong – fans, media, players and owners (arguably the most important of the aforementioned entities in this case) want expansion. For those that do not know, expansion comes with expansion fees paid to the incument (in this case) 12 owners. None of those 12 are going to turn down free money.
But WNBA fans have been teased so cruelly when it comes to the e-word that any news pertaining to said e-word creates a ripple among fans when before it was a tidal wave.
Not to mention more fans are fixated on the WNBA playoffs than anything going on away from the playoffs so anything else – other than, perhaps, awards season – gets automatically placed in the backburner.
That does not appear to be the case in the Bay Area.
Numerous confirmed reports out of the Bay Area are hinting at Joe Lacob, the owner of the Golden State Warriors, closing in on a deal that would bring a WNBA team to northern California.
Those reports are hinting that the team itself would play its games at the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco – but would be headquartered at the Warriors’ practice facility which is in Oakland.
That would be a development that would sound relatively ho hum to many a fan – another bit of expansion news that will be proven to be meaningless in the end.
Except, just today, news broke from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that seems to support the theory of there being fire where there is smoke.
He tweeted that the NBA itself is closing in on having its 2025 All-Star Game take place at Chase Center. The timing of that news being released so close to the reports out of San Francisco that the Warriors are close to bringing a team to the Bay Area cannot be overlooked.
We know that the WNBA are experts on constantly pushing back its expansion timeline. But if the WNBA wanted to play its first season as a 14-team league by 2025 (or 2026 which would be the league’s 30th anniversary), the NBA’s All-Star festivities being at the same venue that will soon play host to a W team would be tremendous marketing bonanza for said team.
Of course there is still the African American Sports and Entertainment Group which was looking to have a team in Oakland and play its games at the former Oracle Arena where the Warriors used to play. AASEG mentioned in a 2021 press conference that they had no competing bids. It appears that has changed.
Lacob has had his eye on the W for years. He used to own the San Jose Lasers of the ABL.
There are plenty of questions still to be answered. How do players feel about the possibility of expansion taking place, but the WNBA potentially following the money and giving Lacob the nod over a Black-led group?
What will the other city be that receives the WNBA’s expansion blessing? More than likely it would be a city east of the Mississippi. Would Lacob be an owner that would follow the Mark Davis and Clara Wu/Joe Tsai blueprint of a team? With his deep pockets and connection to women’s basketball, one would think that would be the route he would go.
One thing that is not much of a question is how the W would make things work in such an expensive market like the Bay Area. If the WNBA can make it would in other expensive markets such as New York (Liberty), Los Angeles (Sparks), Chicago (Sky), Washington (Mystics), Connecticut (Sun), Seattle (Storm), Atlanta (Dream), Phoenix (Mercury), Minnesota (Lynx) and Las Vegas (Aces) it will make the Bay Area work. Especially considering the Bay Area and the WNBA have flirted with each since the Lisa Borders presidency.
The biggest question would be the Oakland factor. Such a team would be based in Oakland and would likely do plenty of community events in the East Bay, but would play its home games at Chase Center. After losing the Warriors to San Francisco, the NFL’s Raiders to Vegas and (likely) the Athletics to Sin City as well, Oakland is starving for a team to call its own.
A WNBA franchise would have provided a golden opportunity for that to be the case, but Lacob’s money may have more sway over commissioner Cathy Engelbert than the cultural relevance and diversity a city like Oakland, with large Black, Brown and Asian populations, would present.
The Aces call Michelob Ultra Arena its primary home court, but have recently hosted a couple of home games at T-Mobile Arena – the home venue of the NHL’s defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights. Would a San Francisco WNBA team stage select home games at Oakland Arena? One must hope.
As mentioned earlier, expansion news nowadays is treated with a “meh” attitude among fans until Engelbert herself is at a press conference announcing a new team(s). But where there is smoke, there is fire – and that haze in the air is not exactly San Francisco fog…