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Suns owner says Las Vegas was his first choice for NBA team

Back in the day when pro basketball still was played on a 94-by-50 foot slab of hardwood instead of in a biosphere at Disney World, a man with sufficient means envisioned owning a team in Las Vegas.

During a recent interview for his team’s podcast, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver said Las Vegas actually was his first choice.

Sarver was doing a lot of business in the city as president and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation in 2004 when he met with NBA commissioner David Stern and said he’d be interested in owning a franchise in Las Vegas.

Despite the league’s burgeoning interest in Las Vegas, this was still three years before the NBA All-Star Game at the Thomas & Mack Center. Stern told Sarver he didn’t think putting a franchise here was on the table yet before adding that the NBA team in Phoenix just so happened to be for sale.

Sarver, an avid pickleball player (honest) who hails from Tucson, Arizona, said he met with Suns owner Jerry Colangelo a couple of weeks later. They shook hands and signed papers not long after that.

“It happened a lot faster than I thought it would,” Sarver said about buying the Suns for a then-record $401 million.

The NBA’s views on legal sports gambling were more narrow in 2004, and T-Mobile Arena was still a figment of a lurid imagination.

But to use the late commissioner’s vernacular, nothing in Las Vegas is off the table now when it comes to the NBA.

Provided, of course, this wretched virus ever goes away.

Around the horn

— If there’s one guy from Las Vegas who has cleaned up nicely during the coronavirus shutdown it’s part-time NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, who returns to the track in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Shortly after announcing his semi-retirement, Gaughan started an industrial organic cleaning business with some of his former pit crew guys called New Wave Cleaning Solutions. While COVID-19 has been a bane on NASCAR fans who bought advanced tickets as well as his father Michael’s casino business, it has been a boom for his racing son’s company.

“It was a business that was started to save the casinos money, ours included,” said the driver of the No. 62 Beard Oil Chevrolet, who finished seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500 in his only other 2020 start. “Now it has turned into a pretty big deal with disinfectants and the way the world went. But I want this (virus) to be over. The little bit of money I make with this is nothing compared to what this town does with casinos and for the people (who live here).”

— The debate over whether UNLV should change its nickname to something more widely accepted is obviously a serious and sensitive one. But a silver lining should UNLV change its nickname is the revenue it will generate through the sale of new T-shirts and other memorabilia. It’ll be just like the Padres changing their colors every time they lose 95 games.

— For a guy who accomplished what he did in his sport, it would have been easy for Eric Wynalda to keep those not as knowledgeable about soccer at arm’s length. Instead, he embraced many of us with open arms and welcomed us inside the 18-yard box and the rest of his world.

Now that he is no longer coach of Lights FC, I am among those who will miss chatting with him about The Beautiful Game.

— It was 50 years ago this week that a freshman running phenom from the University of Oregon named Steve Prefontaine was introduced to the rest of America on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Las Vegas author Jack Sheehan, who played on the Oregon golf team at the same time, still tells the story of the time he hit the great distance runner (who was killed in auto accident during the prime of his Olympic career) in the shin with a practice 5-iron shot.


NBC Sports’ David Gantt’s reaction to Las Vegas landing the 2021 Pro Bowl and Allegiant Stadium passing the “Super Flush” test — 1,430 toilets and urinals were flushed at the same time 297 faucets were running to determine if the plumbing system in the Raiders’ new stadium could handle the stress:

“It’s been a big week for bowl movement in Las Vegas.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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