Business group still coveting NBA team for Montreal

A group of local businesspeople who've banded together with the goal of landing an NBA team for Montreal met the media Wednesday to update their efforts.

The group is led by former federal cabinet minister Michel Fortier and has the backing of the Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce — which is also backing the potential return of big league baseball to Montreal. Stephan Cretier, the head of GardaWorld, would purchase a 10 per cent stake in a future NBA franchise, and be the new team's key investor.

Currently, the NBA has no plans to expand, but Fortier says the league's commissioner, Adam Silver, hasn't closed the door to expansion somewhere down the road. Fortier told a Wednesday afternoon news conference that his group plans to be ready once the opportunity presents itself.

The league hasn't expanded since 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats — since renamed the Hornets — joined the league. An NBA team hasn't changed homes since 2008, when the Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A few things need to happen before Montreal gets an NBA team — among them, the prospective ownership group would have to come up with a financial framework, and meet with other potential investors, both from inside and outside Canada.

The group has already done studies suggesting there is potential for Montreal as a big-league basketball city. The group says the city ranks high among cities with at least one team belonging to one of the big four North American sports leagues — the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB — in terms of the attractiveness of the market, and the strength of the city's economy.

"Montreal is a city that undeniably has what it takes to host a professional basketball team," Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Michel Leblanc said in a statement. "We have a robust economy, low unemployment, and a high confidence index. It's good news that community leaders are putting forward exciting projects reflective of a vibrant and growing metropolis. The Chamber's role is to rally actors in the business community who want to get involved and invest in such projects and to support them in the process."

The NBA makes its annual pre-season visit to Montreal Wednesday evening as the Toronto Raptors take on the Brooklyn Nets.