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Stern: Vegas' odds better
February 13, 2007
NBA commissioner David Stern said yesterday that he's "positive" the All-Star Game in Las Vegas this weekend will lead to "initial discussions" about allowing a team to relocate permanently to that city.
In an interview with Newsday, Stern said he has not dropped his objections to having a team in Las Vegas while NBA games are on the city's gambling books. But in a significant change in position, Stern said he would not stand in the way if league owners voted to move a team to Las Vegas without taking games off the betting lines.
"Absolutely, not, I wouldn't," Stern said in a 20-minute phone conversation advancing the league's first All-Star Game in a non-NBA city. "This league is run by owners. The only vote is the Board of Governors."
Before last year's All-Star Game in Houston, Stern said, "We are not going to go there while they have betting on NBA basketball games." But yesterday, he left the door open for compromise.
"I think that there's a negotiation to be had with the city," Stern said.
Stern remains opposed to locating a team where betting lines are made on NBA games, and is confident he can persuade owners to see it his way. "My recommendation to the owners would be, there's only one subject that separates us from considering it," he said. "And that's sports betting."
But Stern didn't reject the idea of removing betting lines only for games involving a Vegas team. "What you're positing is something in the middle," he said. "And that's for the owners to decide."
Stern, who will meet tomorrow in Las Vegas with Mayor Oscar Goodman, cautioned that Las Vegas is "nowhere near" getting an NBA team. But like Goodman, Stern believes holding the All-Star Game there will accelerate the dialogue. "Of course, they're great hosts," Stern said. "And I'm positive after that, there will be initial discussions."
Sacramento and Seattle are the most obvious candidates for relocation. It would have to be recommended by a committee of at least five owners appointed by Stern, then approved by 16 of the 30 owners.
Touching on other issues, Stern said he is concerned that Charles Barkley, a Hall of Famer and TV analyst for league broadcast partner TNT, is a high roller and recently won $700,000 wagering in Las Vegas.
"I think it's fair to say that it's a subject worthy of some quiet discussion, and I'm apt to do that behind closed doors," Stern said. "And it wouldn't be with him, it would be with TNT."
TNT spokesman Jeff Pomeroy declined to comment.
Stern also said he will push for homosexuality to be addressed in next summer's rookie orientation in the wake of some unenlightened reaction from around the league to former player John Amaechi's announcement that he is gay.
"There are all kinds of issues that are enormously heated on the subject of homosexuality," Stern said. "And it's sort of not fair to stick a microphone in front of a 20-something-year-old and say, 'OK, now you give the definitive reaction on this subject.' I think on balance, our players will be fine."
In another issue expected to come up at Stern's state of the league address Saturday in Las Vegas, the NBA and its partners hope to announce by this year's Finals an extension of the TV contract, which expires after next season.