NBA still taking look at Las Vegas

NEW YORK — There are no plans for what happens if the SuperSonics leave Seattle. Las Vegas still has hopes of being the possible destination.

Las Vegas’ goal of landing an NBA franchise is still alive after commissioner David Stern said Friday he will appoint a committee of owners to study the proposal Mayor Oscar Goodman submitted about how his city would handle a team.

Stern has been opposed to playing in Las Vegas while there is gambling on the league, though he invited Goodman during All-Star Weekend to make his proposal and said he would include it on the agenda during the two-day Board of Governors meeting.

Goodman’s letter failed to offer a compromise that would block betting on a potential Las Vegas franchise, but that hasn’t ruined his chances. Stern said that after subsequent discussions with city officials, the owners asked for the committee so there could be further study “without prejudging anything.”

“We’re not sitting still because we’re forming an owners’ committee,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

Silver said the committee probably would be established in the next several weeks, comprising owners from stable franchises with no potential of moving. Besides the gambling issue, the committee would study where the team would play and what a possible relocation fee would be.

“I’m delighted we’re in a position today where we are alive and in the ballgame,” said Goodman, who called a news conference Friday afternoon after a conversation with Stern.

Goodman said the NBA proposal he signed, along with County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President Rossi Ralenkotter, “could’ve ended up in the wastepaper basket.”

“I’m a very, very happy mayor,” he said.

Stern told Goodman the committee would contact him to discuss the Las Vegas market, Goodman said. Besides a new arena and gambling on NBA games, Goodman said he didn’t know what other issues the committee would raise.

Goodman said a request for proposals on funding a new arena went out Thursday. The NBA does not consider the Thomas & Mack Center, where the All-Star Game took place Feb. 18, modern enough to fit the league’s needs.

The NBA currently has no team to move. But that could change in a year.

Stern said the SuperSonics updated the board on the “disappointing week that they had there in terms of not even a vote on their measure.”

Washington’s legislative leaders recently announced they wouldn’t vote during the current session on a proposal to use county taxes to help build a new $500 million arena in the Seattle suburb of Renton.

The Sonics’ lease at KeyArena runs through 2010, but the team isn’t obligated to play in Seattle past next season without a new arena deal, and owner Clay Bennett said after the failed vote measure that he doubted they would do so.

Oklahoma City would seem to be the likely destination if the Sonics do move, because Bennett is from there and the city strongly supported the New Orleans Hornets over the last two seasons.

Review-Journal writer David McGrath Schwartz contributed to this report.

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