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'This is a no-brainer': With commissioner in town, Portland makes pitch for WNBA team

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert indicated it will likely be 2025 before the league expands. A dozen teams are on the short list. Portland is one of them.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland is hoping to land a WNBA expansion team. On Monday, heavy hitters in the Oregon sports world got the chance to make a pitch directly to the league's commissioner.

The Sports Bra, a first of its kind sports bar focused on women's sports, hosted a roundtable discussion Monday. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden organized the event with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert as the guest of honor.

Kelly Graves and Scott Rueck, head coaches of the women's teams at Oregon and Oregon State were in attendance, along with some of their players.

Portland Trail Blazers president Dwayne Hankins and general manager Joe Cronin were there, as were former Blazers Fred Jones and Martell Webster. Portland Thorns general manager Karina LeBlanc was a member of the panel.

Several former WNBA players were there. According to Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report, Blazers director of basketball planning and strategy Asjha Jones, scouting manager Sheri Sam and scout Tina Thompson, as was Monica Maxwell, now an assistant executive director with the OSAA, sat in on the panel.

"I think that this market is primed and ready for this team to come back," said Maxwell, referring to Portland's previous WNBA team, the Portland Fire, which folded after the 2002 season.

"I think the foundation is in place, the blueprint has been set, and I think this market would be outstanding for a WNBA team," Maxwell said.

Engelbert was hired by the league in 2019 to lead its business transformation.

"We have 12 teams in a country of over 300 million people," Engelbert said. "That is not enough. So that is why we talk about expansion. You have to be in more cities to grow fandom, so that leads me to be here today."

Wyden has been one of those leading the charge to get a WNBA team in the Rose City. "This is something that we can do that is going to make our great state even better and even stronger," Wyden said.

Other sports leaders in attendance said Portland is ready for a WNBA team.

"Portland's such an incredible basketball city. There's a big void without a women's basketball team here," Cronin said. "I think this group here shows the passion and the energy and how exciting this would be."

The coaches of the top college teams in the state are all in. "I think this is a no-brainer," Graves said.

Said Rueck: "The W to Portland is just a massive W."

Engelbert indicated it will likely be 2025 before the league expands. She said a dozen teams are on the short list for expansion and Portland is one of them.

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