NBA commissioner David Stern came to watch a basketball game Thursday night. But before he could take in the U.S.-Argentina game at the FIBA Americas Championship, he was besieged by questions about his officiating staff and disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy.
So when he was asked about Las Vegas' NBA prospects, a subject he usually tires of addressing, Stern seemed almost relieved and was willing to talk.
"Our owners committee is going to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss Las Vegas," Stern said. "They've been gathering information, and we've been in constant communication with Mayor (Oscar) Goodman and we're aware of what's going on.
"I think it's great that AEG is coming in to build an arena in Las Vegas. I've known (AEG president) Tim Leiweke for many years, and we've worked with him on many projects. It's an exciting time for Las Vegas. From what I understand, you may have two arenas here. I guess when it rains, it pours."
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver met Wednesday with Goodman to get up to speed on the AEG and REI Neon arena projects. However, Stern and Silver said they have not asked Goodman to amend his original proposal regarding Nevada sports books accepting wagers on NBA games.
In April, Goodman said sports books should not be forced to remove NBA games from the betting boards for Las Vegas to have a franchise.
"We have no issue with gambling in Las Vegas," Stern said. "It's legal. It's regulated."
Speculation has indicated the Donaghy issue ties Las Vegas to the scandal, but Stern disagreed.
"I honestly think it's not an issue," he said. "It's unfair to Las Vegas. No matter how many times I explain it, people think I'm anti-Las Vegas. I'm not. It's a great city. Perhaps one day it will be an NBA city.
"What I think the Donaghy case has done has heightened the question about how readily information can be obtained and used for gambling purposes. But it's not tied to Las Vegas. Not in my opinion."
Stern was making his first visit to the city since All-Star Weekend in mid-February. At that time, he said unless a modern facility was built, the NBA would not bring its midseason showcase back to town.
With AEG planning to break ground next June and have its arena operational by September 2010, perhaps the NBA would return for the 2011 All-Star Weekend.
"That's a long time away," Stern said. "Right now, we have no teams that are relocating, and we're not looking to expand.
"Can that change? Of course. ... But it looks like they're doing some exciting things in Las Vegas, and we're aware of the scuttlebutt about an NHL team possibly coming there. We think that's great, and we'll look at the things that affect us as we look at Las Vegas.
"We want Las Vegas to be a successful major league sports market. The NBA Summer League has been very successful. We're pleased with the FIBA tournament. And we expect to continue to do business with Las Vegas across the board."