David Stern says he expects deal to sell Hornets “soon”

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A whole lot of deals fall apart when they get close to people signing papers — and writing checks — but this one appears to have some legs.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said a deal was “close” to sell the New Orleans Hornets and that he hoped to have good news for the NBA owners at the Board of Governor’s meeting next week. Here is the money paragraph from the AP:

Stern prefaced his comments by telling a joke, saying “soon” when asked about the Hornets’ deal. But he said the league was in intense negotiations with three groups. He was hopeful he could tell team owners at a meeting next week that the deal was done, close or that he was on the verge of a deal.

This deal would involve a new lease with the New Orleans Arena that would both be more favorable financially for the team but also would lock them into the city for more than a decade.

The interesting point is the three teams note. We know about the frontrunners, the California group where Mike Dunleavy Sr. is the front man and the basketball mind, paired with Raj Bhathal, owner of one the largest swimwear manufacturing businesses in the country, and San Antonio car dealer Larry Benson. The second group was led by former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest.

Don’t know who the third group is, but they would have to come from way off the pace down the stretch to even get close in this race.