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Expansion for Seattle remains only answer in fight over Kings

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With two half-billion-dollar arenas planned, two hungry fanbases begging for basketball and two incredibly eager ownership groups at hand, expansion is the only reasonable solution to the Sacramento Kings situation.

Patrick McDermott

As you read this -- assuming you read this during normal business hours on Wednesday -- a group of NBA owners are listening to pitches from very rich men representing the cities of Seattle and Sacramento on why their proposal to build a new home and a real future for the Kings should be tapped.

Chris Hansen, a hedge fund manager who spent his childhood enamored with the Sonics, has agreed to pay a truly exorbitant amount of money for the Kings. He plans to move them to Seattle in time for the 2013-14 season if the NBA approves his proposal. Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and a former All-NBA point guard, has assembled a group of four very rich men to fund an arena, buy the team and redevelop the city's downtown ... only if the NBA will reject Hansen's plea.

Both sides want the same thing, but in their own city. And neither side is budging, pulling out all of the P.R. stops to make a good show. It's like a bourgeois Helm's Deep.


It's obvious to almost everyone closely following this saga that the most reasonable solution -- perhaps the only reasonable solution -- is the addition of an expansion team in Seattle. The Maloofs would get their money, Sacramento would keep the Kings it has fought so valiantly to keep, Seattle would get a team to replace the one it never deserved to lose and the other 29 owners in the NBA would get both a whole bunch of money and a nice valuation boost out of the deal.

And David Stern would be rid of a nasty little problem while making everyone happy.

We've run through the arguments against expansion in the past. Check that out if you're concerned about impacts. The short version:

1. Talent dilution is but a tiny concern belied by the number of solid prospects getting too little playing time every single night.

2. The NBA has had success with an odd number of teams in the past so there's no need to add No. 31 and 32.

3. The cut of league-shared revenue that a 31st team would take can be made up through a substantial expansion fee and an understanding that the Seattle market would be a major contributor to league revenue through a solid local TV deal.

There's one more cynical argument against expansion: it's nice to have a hungry market to use as leverage against other NBA cities who balk at arena subsidies. But here's the thing: Seattle isn't the NBA's version of the NFL's Los Angeles. The movement to get the NFL in L.A. is largely a faceless corporate developer push. There's not a golden Angeleno pushing to make it happen: it's 100 percent business.

Chris Hansen's push in Seattle is, of course, lousy with huge economic potential. But it stems from fandom, from passion. It's not an effort you use as a backstop. It deserves to be used properly.

And that said, there are no other NBA teams currently in need of threat. The Bucks signed a six-year extension in Milwaukee. The Hornets, Grizzlies and Hawks are locked in. The Bobcats aren't going anywhere. The Pacers' attendance ship shall turn around once Indianapolis realizes a damn good team plays there. (Any day now, y'all.) The Timberwolves' ownership situation is up in the air, so they remain in the questionable category. But certainly there seems to be no immediate danger.

So what's the use of a threat with no one to threaten? It's pointless.

Expansion is the only answer. It's too bad the mayors of Seattle and Sacramento can't get past the prisoner's dilemma and make a pact to withdraw public subsidy support for both projects unless the NBA expands to 31. There's a threat I can get behind.

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