NEW YORK – With labor strife quelled for nearly the next five years — until the league’s hard-fought collective bargaining agreement can be reopened in 2017 — the business of this week’s Board of Governors meeting might seem less pressing than the sessions that preceded this post-lockout season.
But don’t tell that to the NBA fans in Sacramento and New Orleans.
The long-term viability of both franchises was in play as the owners met in midtown Manhattan Thursday and Friday. There also was expected to be discussion of a controversial marketing initiative — selling sponsorship space on game jerseys. And then there is the nagging matter of commissioner David Stern’s exit strategy, which could trigger in a matter of months or, more likely, the next few seasons. Stern has said repeatedly that he will retire before the next CBA gets negotiated.
For now, the commissioner probably would be happy just to shed his owner/CEO role with the Hornets, an arrangement that reached its peak awkwardness in December when he stepped in to reject a trade that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul eventually was sent to the other L.A. team, the Clippers, amid much clamor and the goal of finding new ownership for New Orleans gained a new urgency.
The NBA has owned and operated the Hornets since December 2010. But Stern said at All-Star Weekend that two possible buyers had emerged; a winner might be announced today, Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote:
It appears the league might be ready to choose between an offer from a group headed by California swimwear manufacturer Raj Bhathal that will include former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest, and a bid from New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.