Hansen said his relationship with the league office has deepened the past year, since his plans to return a team to Seattle became public.
He is cautiously optimistic about the league's support.
”People may have misconstrued David's comments a little bit because they're looking at them through a very hopeful lens,“ Hansen said. ”The great part of that comment is David is really supportive in getting basketball back to Seattle.
“People might be reading a little too much into it beyond that. But I think it's very clear from David's comments and a lot of the other owners when they're asked about Seattle, they would like to see basketball back here.”
Last week Stern, 70, announced plans to retire in February 2014, which created several theories on how he'll spend his final months in office.
Citing unnamed league sources, Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports painted a scenario in which Stern will work a backdoor deal to force the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings to Hansen.
“Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle,” Wojnarowski wrote. “Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.”
Other relocation candidates include Charlotte and Atlanta, because those franchises have also struggled with attendance and unstable ownership for several years.
Another option for Hansen: expansion.
A few years ago it was more likely the 30-team league would contract rather than expand.
However, the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement signed last year makes it easier for small-market teams to be financially viable. At the NBA owners meeting last week, Stern projected only a handful of teams will lose money this season-down from nearly half the league the season before the new CBA.
“The league will take a wait-and-see approach,” Hansen said. “If all of the small-market problems are fixed, teams are profitable and everyone is happy, then three to five years, might they consider (expansion) and change their opinion? Yeah.
”But the expectation that it would happen in the next few years is misplaced. It's one of those things like taxes. Any president is going to say, ‘I'm not going to raise taxes,' until he does. They're going to say no new franchises until they change their minds.“