Expansion Is Not The Simple Solution

HOUSTON – Resolving the Sacramento-Seattle debate was never going to be as simple as rewarding both cities with teams, a reality commissioner David Stern and successor/deputy commissioner Adam Silver no doubt will underline during All-Star weekend here. In fact, Stern already has.

The idea has gained public momentum the last several weeks as a win-win outcome: Sacramento gets to keep the Kings with new ownership, the dream ending there, while Seattle gets an expansion franchise, generally the preferred route over inheriting a team with a history elsewhere. Plus, Seattle, sympathetic to the emotional aspects after feeling the pain of the SuperSonics moving to Oklahoma City, doesn’t have to victimize someone else to get back into the NBA. Everyone goes home happy.

It just may not be realistic. Owners around the league who will decide the fate of the sale of the Kings to a Seattle-based group, pending legal challenges from minority shareholders who claim a right of first refusal on any purchases, will clearly be intrigued by the idea of an expansion fee. Bob Johnson and the group that started the Bobcats in Charlotte, for example, paid $300 million, and that was in 2004.

But owners will be weighing that against the revenue that will be lost by having to cut a 31st team into future money, a significant setback that current organizations will project over the next five or 10 years. TV money. Luxury-tax money. Even if an expansion franchise is transitioned into a full share – a certain percentage the first year, an increase the next, etc. – that’s still a big hit over time.

(And that doesn’t even get into concerns over watering down the talent level. That will be more of an issue for fans.)

When Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle asked Stern, as part of a wide-ranging interview in advance of All-Star weekend about the possibility of Sacramento without a team, the commissioner replied, “I’m going to claim executive privilege on that one. The idea of leaving Sacramento is not a good one. The idea of going back to Seattle is a good idea. We’ll have to see how that plays out.” Pressed on expansion, though, Stern said:

“I haven’t heard anything about expansion from our owners. They have discussed contraction in conjunction with the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. I don’t think (expansion) is an option. Right now, we have no approved plan for an arena in Seattle. We have a very good potential ownership group and set of plans, but there’s a lot of work to be done. I keep a little green book with a list of all the cities interested in NBA teams and could respond pretty quickly. There’s all kinds of stuff going on in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Louisville, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Mexico City, Kansas City.”

I don’t think (expansion) is an option.

This is obviously in the moment, with no way of knowing what the next three or five years would bring. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has said he intends to have a new entertainment complex built with or without the NBA as an anchor tenant, and a downtown arena moving forward would obviously keep expansion hopes alive. But Johnson has also received a clear message from Stern in the past that chances are very slim the small-market city would get a replacement team in the future. Besides, if the league was going to add a 31st team, it would be backward to move an established franchise from Sacramento to Seattle only to put a new organization in Sacramento in a few years.


  1. A says:

    this is going to sound stupid, but why can’t close cities share teams?
    Golden State is rather vague and Sacramento is close enough, the team could play 30 games in the Bay and 11 in Sacramento or something

    HEY! why not move the Clippers to Seattle, hahahahaha

  2. Chester says:

    expansion are u crazy? the league is watered down enough as it is, i would cut it down to 26 teams and cut down the schedule to 65 games. plus make the first round of the playoffs a best of 5 again

  3. Chris Gill says:

    newark can use a team you stole ours

  4. Dan says:

    Stern saying arena not done in Seattle is like buying a steak. Marinating it and heating the grill. Is the steak done? Nope. You gotta cook it. He’s speaking as a lawyer. The steak isn’t done till its cooked

  5. Bill Harris says:

    Gentlemen, many of you have already forgotten what has happenned since the Seattle Supersonics were :stolen” from the loyal and supportive fans, here in the great Pacific Northwest, with more that 40+ years of exciting basketball, and the 20th largest marketing area,,Chris Hansen, a loyal and dedicated Seattle native, has put together a ownership team consistting of Steve Balmer (Microsoft), and the Nordstrom Family, and has already signed an aggrement with the Maloof family,to purchase the Sacremento Kings, likewise, Hansen has already purchased property and has a signed memorandum of understanding from both the Seattle City Council and King County. Here’s the latest overview from the Seattle Business Journal: Early last week, Hansen and the Maloofs issued statements that the Maloofs had agreed to sell the Sacramento Kings to Hansen, a San Francisco hedge-fund manager who grew up in Seattle. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Erik Nordstrom and Peter Nordstrom of Nordstrom Inc., are part of Hansen’s group, which is organized as ArenaCo.

    The group is waiting for NBA approval of the deal. According to SportsBusiness Journal, ArenaCo reportedly is buying 65 percent of the Kings from the Maloofs and a minority owner for $341 million.

    The buyers want to bring the franchise to Seattle, where the team would play in KeyArena for two or more (subscription required) years while a new arena is built in the Sodo area.

    The NBA’s relocation committee must OK the deal by March 1 and then win approval from NBA owners, which could come during the league’s board of governors meeting in mid-April.

  6. Jim says:

    How about trimming down the schedule a little bit before talking about expansion at least the first is more feasible than the second how many more injuries will it take for these morons to reduce this 82 game season to 72 or 66.Yeah bla bla money is invovled but what I see are some pretty ugly games by the bulls or the lakers and plenty of other teams due to constant injuries.Not saying a more flexible schedule will completely fix that but it will definetely help.

  7. Team Needs Good A Owner - No Children PLEASE ! says:

    So long as the Maloofs don’t own a team … the rest are only details. Wish the same on Cuban.