I would have loved it if the NBA offered Seattle an expansion franchise two years ago. It would have been a great solution to bringing the Sonics back. Ever since the quest to return the NBA to Seattle began, I (along with many others) harbored fears that this would mean we'd have to take another city's team.
Sactown Royalty posted this article the other day that said that the NBA was offering up Seattle an expansion franchise to begin in the 2014-15 season. The article is based off of a series of tweets from a radio personality, who says he has two sources saying expansion is on the table and that Hansen is saying no to it.
In the interim, the only things that pop up on a search for Seattle expansion are 1) links to Kings blogs advocating for it, 2) various building expansions in Seattle and 3) articles on Medicaid. While I would refrain from calling the tweets total bunk, right now they have little merit. It would seem that the tweets are meant as a way to vilify Hansen to a group of people that need no such encouragement.
But still, expansion two seasons from now would not be ideal. Let me explain...
It wasn't that long ago that David Stern was saying that contraction, "is not a subject we're against." How serious this was is debatable (as is most anything Stern says), but if contraction was supposedly on the table two years ago and expansion has not been publicly on the table, then it makes little sense to change course now. The real meat behind this argument is what Stern says later on:
"In fact, when you talk about revenue sharing, a number of teams have said that if you have a team that is perpetually going to be a recipient, aren't you better off with the ability to buy them in?
Tie this in to what was reported about the Seattle presentation to the relocation committee earlier in April: Seattle will pay into the league's revenue sharing; Sacramento will draw from it.
Now, some have suggested pairing contraction and expansion, and according to the article linked, Stern has as well. I suppose this is technically different than moving a team, but the effect is the same: one city gains a franchise, another one loses it. (Ironically, the article linked cites Milwaukee and their "antiquated" arena as a target for contraction. The Bradley Center and Sleep Train Arena opened the same year) This doesn't do anything besides kick the can down the road, and create one more city that will be seeking an NBA team.
Lest we forget (not that any readers of Sonics Rising are apt to do that), Hansen has a deal in place to buy the Kings now, move them to Seattle now, and start building an arena in the fall. Sacramento has done an admirable job putting together what they have, but it still falls short. An expansion Kings may be a good move a few years from now. Sacramento simply does not have their ducks in a row, so to speak. Seattle is shovel-ready, Sacramento is not. The NBA could move a team into Seattle now and be more profitable, while Sacramento sorts through land acquisition, lawsuits, and more to finance and build a new arena. The drive is there and I have no doubt Sacramento can do it, but from a what works now standpoint, Seattle remains the best option.
This isn't about an emotional appeal, or which city deserves an NBA franchise. Both cities do. That said, Seattle is in a better position to host a city now and contribute to the league. Sacramento can get there, but in the interim it would be in the league's best interest to approve the sale and then work with Sacramento towards getting an expansion team.
The league may give expansion a serious consideration when their current TV deal ends after the 2015-16 season. While a new arena in Sacramento might not be up by then (given the six years' timeline it takes to generally build arenas in California), the league could feel as confident with a Sacramento bid as they do with a Sonics bid now to allow them to play in Sleep Train for a season or two and then move to a new facility (much like the Sonics would be doing).
Expansion would be ideal, but it is to late in the game for that option. It may be the eventual solution to making both city's happy, but for now the league must decide which location offers the most profit now.