Let's Talk Expansion

In the months leading up to the fateful vote in May, the word 'expansion' was treated with disdain. As a matter of fact, we half-jokingly banished that word around here, forcing those who wanted to discuss it to use creative lingo, the most common of which was "The E Word".

The reasons were simple. We had a team secured, or so we thought. It was going to be a tough fight, but most of us thought that HBNW would find a way to win. There was no reason to discuss expansion because it was thought of as a red herring and because Little Napoleon and his replacement in waiting had publicly poo pooed the idea nearly every time it had come up.

Well that's over. Expansion is no longer a curse word. It is, hopefully, no longer a red herring. In fact, I think we now have to consider it as our primary option.

We now see the NBA's policy regarding relocation. The League will do everything in its power to prevent it if the incumbent city steps up. They will move heaven and earth, even if it makes no financial or market sense. There is also the fact that no teams are for sale and none seem likely to be for sale before our MOU expires.

Unless the delightfully unforeseen happens, that leaves expansion. So let's talk about it.

IT SEEMS TO BE ON THE TABLE

Adam Silver said as much in the post-vote press conference.

"We've never wavered in our desire to return to the Seattle market at some point," Silver said. "... Expansion was discussed at least as a possibility down the road. We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiation but we're very appreciative of the fans in Seattle, as we always were. We regretted leaving the market. ... We fully expect we will return there one day."

Compared to the way he had reluctantly discussed expansion in the past, this was Silver making goo goo eyes with the word before making out with it while sitting in a tree.

One could label this as a blowing of smoke in our direction and an attempt to steer the Seattle investors decidedly away from any type of litigation. It may very well be. We still don't know much about Silver. I think the best policy is to treat him as an honest broker until he proves otherwise. We had a horrible relationship with David Stern. Let's give the new guy a chance.

Non-Nuclear Approach

The best reason to believe that Silver is likely to approach this in a favorable, or at least non-oppositional way, is the fact that the Hansen group has seemingly decided not to pursue litigation. Consider the following Chris Daniels tweet.

Chris Daniels ‏@ChrisDaniels5 22 May
One post script to #NBASeattle story - I'm getting strong indications Hansen will NOT pursue legal action against NBA/Maloofs on #NBAKings.

Prior to the vote rumors had flown around town that Chris Hansen's team would file a landmark anti-trust suit before the echo of the post-vote press conference faded. That would've been bold and entertaining to watch, but it would've been the last resort. It would've been a statement that Hansen saw litigation as the only path toward a team. At the very least, he must feel like there is a reasonable chance with Silver. Trust the man in the room. Trust Chris.

NO CLEAR PATH

Did you hear that Brock Huard? I said there is no clear path to expansion. A clear path suggests a guarantee and a lack of obstacles.

When you report something you are usually right and you are a great asset to the Seattle sports community. You were clearly right about disappointment. You were apparently right about negotiations taking place behind the scenes. Your competition agrees with you.

Dave Softy Mahler ‏@Softykjr 17 May
As of late last night, I was told the Sea group was still "bargaining" with NBA. For what I don't know Could explain last tweets from Mannix

However, it would be silly to ignore what Silver said in the statement above.

"... Expansion was discussed at least as a possibility down the road. We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiation ..."

There Will Be Opposition

Even if Silver is already fully on board with expansion and gave Hansen some kind of wink and nod guarantee, there will still be opposition. Much of it may come from owners who have been our allies in the past, such as Mark Cuban.

Cuban said the following of relocation in an interview with Mitch Levy last year...

"I don't think the NBA looks at that in terms of, ‘Let's push one team to go here or there.' Every owner that has an NBA team, it's their baby. It's up to them to determine what's best for them. And so - whether Sacramento or any team - it's going to be up to somebody to go in there and acquire the team, and then make an application to move the team to Seattle. What I can tell you is I can't imagine any owner standing in the way of that. ... I'd be shocked if any owner stood up and said that was a bad idea."

Consider Cuban shocked. However, as much as Cuban has supported us in the past, he has not been a supporter of expansion, as indicated in the following article at SportingNews.com. Read the full article here.

A movement to bring the NBA back to Seattle is under way, and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, the lead investor in a potential new arena, has the support of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

"As long as it's not an expansion team, yes," Cuban told CBSSports.com, when asked if he'd like to see a team in Seattle.

Cuban said he voted against owner Clay Bennett's decision to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City "because I thought it was wrong to leave Seattle. I'd be all for a team going back to Seattle. But it would have to be a team that moves. I'd be against any type of expansion."

So if an owner, who was fully opposed to the Sonics leaving Seattle and fully supportive of moving the Kings to Seattle, is rigidly opposed to expansion, do we really believe that other owners don't feel the same? Could his and other opinions change with the new television deal? Possibly. Possibly not.

I'm sorry, Brock. I'm sorry, Tim Montemayor. I'm sorry, Paul Rogers. There is not now, nor has there ever been a guarantee of expansion.

TIMELINES

The one guarantee we do have regarding expansion is that, if it's formally considered, it won't be formally considered until the the upcoming television contract is resolved. Had I been a reporter at the post-vote news conference, I would've phrased the following questions.

"Mr. Silver you said you wanted to see how the new television contract turns out before you do anything with expansion and there have been reports that the negotiation for that will begin informally very soon. When do you expect the new contract to be formally completed and how soon afterward would you formally consider expansion to Seattle? Would it be the day the contract is signed? Would it be the day the contract takes effect?"

I would've then phrased a few choice questions for David Stern, but I won't reveal those here.

Assumptions

As far as the television contract negotiation goes, consider the following statement from an article at probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com, which you can read here.

The league plans to wait for its playoffs to end in June before turning its focus to the media package, sources said. While those informal talks are likely to take place, a formal deal is not expected until next year, when current NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver replaces David Stern as commissioner.

Let's assume for the sake of discussion that this timeline is accurate and that the NBA will not only immediately consider expanding to Seattle, but would quickly agree to it.

Previous Examples

  • Charlotte was awarded expansion in January of 2003, which resulted in the Bobcats opening play in 2004.
  • Vancouver and Toronto were awarded expansion in February of 1994, which resulted in the Grizzlies and the Raptors beginning play in 1995.
Since the NBA season begins in October, that would equate to about 1.75 years between grant of expansion and the team taking the court.

So if Little Napoleon retires on February 1, 2014, the new television contract is signed on February 2, 2014, and the NBA grants expansion on February 3, of 2014? The new Sonics would likely take the court for the 2015/16 season.

I really wish I could promise you that.
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