Could Larry Ellison and the NBA move into the South Bay before both the A's and the 49ers?
It's possible. It's plausible. It's a lot to take in -- there are potential barriers, votes, negotiations and further complications, no doubt.
But the prospect of Ellison buying a struggling franchise and moving it to HP Pavilion is real enough to have spawned interested conversation at very high levels.
And if things break a certain way over the next year or two, this theoretically could happen in a relative snap -- and a flood of Ellison money. Which you cannot say about the A's or 49ers, who announced their South Bay intentions long ago but both still far from the finish line.
The NBA/San Jose advantages: Ellison's billions, the handful of teams in financial distress, and the existence of HP Pavilion, which is NBA-ready.
In January, Ellison, one of the richest men in the world, confirmed that he bid on the New Orleans Hornets, but the league chose to take the team over at that time and said it was seeking local ownership.
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Ellison had no comment on the matter.
But it's probably safe to assume the NBA will wait until after this summer's labor negotiations, then put the Hornets back up for sale.
In that scenario, would anybody expect Ellison quietly to end his efforts to own a sports franchise after he was surprisingly outbid for the Warriors last July?
Of course, any Ellison/San Jose effort would involve Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the company that runs the Sharks and the arena and has sought an NBA co-tenant for years.
"We've always been interested in having an NBA team come to the facility," said Malcolm Bordelon, SVS&E executive president for business operations.
"We've been very clear that, between ourselves and the city, we're both very open to it. But we don't have a deal in place or any conversation taking place right now."
In any NBA discussions, there would be a few practical questions, Bordelon said, mainly involving revenue splits, new locker rooms and possible office and practice sites. A further issue: Could the Bay Area, which has supported the Warriors so well through so many listless seasons, support two NBA franchises?
My view: With another prospective owner, those issues could be massive headaches. With a supremely competitive billionaire owner? Not such a big deal.
However, Bordelon was clear: There is nothing immediate brewing. And Thursday, NBA senior vice president Tim Frank said that any San Jose possibility is "hypothetical" and declined further comment.
But Lacob, the Warriors co-owner, recently acknowledged the unwelcome (for him) possibility of Ellison attempting to move a team to San Jose.
The Warriors have 75-mile NBA "marketing rights" that include San Jose but have no veto power on another team moving into that area. All power to approve or block such a move rests with the NBA Board of Governors -- one vote for each team.
The Sacramento Kings likely will ask for an approval vote next month for their desired move to Anaheim, within the 75-mile territory of the Lakers and the Clippers. In order to deny a relocation precedent, I'm told that Lacob (the Warriors' voting governor) almost certainly will vote against the Anaheim move.
A "no" vote on Anaheim also would set up the Warriors' negotiating stance on the size of a potential relocation fee if Ellison moves into their territory.
"Anyone who's smart wouldn't want to pay a huge number (for a relocation fee) -- and it would be a huge number -- to go put a team in San Jose and have now half the market," Lacob told veteran NBA journalist Sam Amick last week. "Why would you do that?
"And if you're the people who bid before, as an example, why would you pay all that money when you could've just bought the Warriors -- or half the Warriors?"
It's all related, you see? Interesting question: Why didn't the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, talk seriously about moving to San Jose?
Best guess: Because that site is potentially being saved as an option for Ellison, and because the Maloofs at this point are not interested in selling control of their franchise.
Emphasize the word "option." Nothing's guaranteed.
But when you start calculating the likeliest spot and owner for a new franchise in the South Bay, all attention should be turned to Larry Ellison, and to the NBA.
Contact Tim Kawakami at firstname.lastname@example.org.