October 5, 2023
Sources: Portland expected to be second WNBA expansion team
Discussions have reached Board of Governors level
Multiple sources have told The Next that discussions about adding Portland to the WNBA’s next round of expansion have reached the Board of Governors level.
The addition of Portland to the widely-expected announcement Thursday to add a team in the Bay Area would swell the ranks to 14 teams in time for a pivotal season for the league, one in which the league will be negotiating its new media rights deal.
Lead time of 18 months is considered vital for an ownership group to properly prepare for a launch of a new team, while it gives the current group of 12 teams the chance to prepare for everything from an expansion draft to a potential sea change in a collective bargaining agreement, should the WNBPA elect to opt out of the current deal, which runs through 2027. It is generally assumed around the league that the players will do so.
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Conferences can be easily re-aligned in a Portland/Bay Area set of additions, with multiple front office members telling The Next the expectation would be that the league would move the Minnesota Lynx to the Eastern Conference.
From a playoffs perspective, of course, it wouldn’t matter much, since the current system has eight teams seeded regardless of conference.
The Golden State Warriors ownership group has called a news conference for Thursday afternoon, where they are widely expected to announce their WNBA expansion franchise in the Bay Area. Cathy Engelbert, as of now, is scheduled to speak to reporters at 2 PM ET on Sunday, ahead of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
UPDATE 11:50 AM ET: The WNBA has made the announcement on social media, and Engelbert will be speaking today as well.
Much more to come on this. Our Michelle Smith is live at the Golden State press conference this afternoon, and a special Locked On Women’s Basketball with SFGATE’s Alex Simon will follow that presser as well.
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