Can contraction paired with expansion solve the NBA’s Sacramento-or-Seattle dilemma?

David Stern addresses media at the BOG meetings.  (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

In just a few weeks, two cities will find out the fates of their NBA lives. The league is expected to either bring back the Sonics or keep the Kings in Sacramento.  Sadly, a happy ending doesn’t seem likely for two communities both deserving of NBA franchises.

Expansion seems like the logical solution.  The NBA has two communities with rabid fanbases and strong political support that have worked to commit large sums of public subsidies to build brand new arenas.  However, the economics just don’t pan out right now according to league brass.  A number of factors, including uncertainty with the league’s next television deal, limit the NBA’s ability to expand to 31 teams.

But what if contraction paired with expansion was viewed as a possible solution?

Yes, the idea of dissolving a franchise is just as unsettling as the thought of relocation.  Unfortunately though, there are markets in need of upgraded facilities that aren’t nearly as close as Sacramento and Seattle are to solving their own arena conundrums.  Could the league expand now then perhaps contract later if say a Milwaukee, Minnesota or Detroit doesn’t step up like the two that are wrestling for control of the Kings?

In his pre-playoff conference call, here’s what NBA Commissioner David Stern had to say yesterday about that when asked if the league has considered the idea in the Sacramento/Seattle dilemma.

You know, that hasn’t been looked at as an option, and we’re focusing solely on this issue now because there are many things keeping our board occupied.

And so I think that anything about expansion really is going to have to await the outcome of this particular application, and then we’ll ‑ the board will decide what it wants to do.  However, the only expressions that I have heard are suggestions that it would be imprudent to consider expansion at this time.

If the NBA ever decides to explore the idea, the Milwaukee Bucks could be one likely candidate for contraction.  Like the Kings, the Bucks are in the market for a new arena considering the Bradley Center is one of the league’s most antiquated facilities.  The Bucks aren’t locked into a long-term lease either, as their current contract, which was extended two years ago, expires in 2017.

Stern offered this response when asked if the NBA has set a hard deadline for the Bucks organization to get something accomplished in the next few years.

Let me say that the Bucks came to us and said, we will have a plan that will have a new arena at the end of this extension of this lease, and will you please give us an extension and approve it, and we did.  That’s the current state of the record.

As the league decides the Kings’ fate, it appears that other markets in need of new arenas won’t be on watch.  This one, it seems, will be judged as a debate solely between Sacramento and Seattle.

Stern on arena timelines and temporary facilities for Sonics and Kings

The NBA commissioner was asked about the challenges of building new arenas in Sacramento and Seattle in a timely matter.  Projects of such large magnitude usually have hiccups along the way, which Stern says the NBA is accounting for in both markets.

“We have a fair amount of experience with arenas being built,” the commissioner said in Friday’s call. “And our counsel has even more with respect to arenas in other sports leagues, and so for us there’s almost always a built‑in slippage of some kind or another in most arena situations.”

There’s been plenty of speculation and reporting examining which city will build its arena first.  Stern, however seemed to suggest that the NBA’s concerns lie in the existing facilities that either the Sonics or Kings will play in over the next few seasons.

“We just have been focusing more on the fact that whether we’re in Seattle or we’re in Sacramento, we’re going to be in a temporary building that is not adequate fully by NBA current standards for some period of time,”  Stern said.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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