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Goodman to Vegas group: Show me the NBA contract

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is openly skeptical about the claim by International Development Management that it has an NBA team “under contract” if a new Clark County arena is built; meanwhile, the NBA denies that any team is eminently moving to Sin City.

Goodman, who has worked for years to bring the NBA to downtown Las Vegas, didn’t think anything was happening on the NBA front, despite Chris Milam’s assertion that his group could deliver on an NBA team for a proposed Strip arena on the old Wet ‘N Wild site. “A written agreement, I would find it incredible, that’s number one,” the Las Vegas mayor said during his weekly press conference. “But I’ve been wrong before and I would apologize if I’m wrong now. I just don’t see it. I mean, there may be whispers, there may be winks, there may be nods, but I just don’t see an agreement.”

Of course, Goodman may have a little axe to grind. The Strip is in Clark County; he has no jurisdiction over it. (The city limit is at Sahara Avenue.) So an NBA arena coming to the Strip mean it’s highly unlikely a new arena would be built downtown.

But’s right about one thing: it is highly unlikely a written contract exists, mostly because of the convoluted way the NBA runs franchise sales. First, a team must solicit bids for a sale; then a team must go through them. After a winning bid is selected, it is then reviewed by a relocation committee.

All of this led NBA spokesperson Tim Frank to say the following: “We categorically deny that there is an NBA team under contract.” And the Pistons, floated by the Las Vegas Sun as a potential target, issued an even more emphatic denial: “While there is no substantive news to report regarding the sale of the Detroit Pistons, our ownership group has absolutely nothing to do with any proposal that would move the team to Las Vegas. As stated since the beginning of this process, the preference is to find an ownership group that is committed to Detroit and the surrounding area.” (For the record, we immediately dismissed the idea of the Pistons moving to Vegas.)

Now, Milam might say this is all well and good; we do have an unofficial agreement with a team owner, and we expect to land that team. Teams do not need to take the highest offer; the bid solicitation is designed to make sure a prospective local owner has a shot at the team before it is moved. And it’s not very likely a relocation committee would shoot down a bid to move the team to Vegas; Commissioner David Stern has spoken highly about the Vegas market in the past.

So we’re guessing the truth is somewhere in between Milam’s assertion of the contract and the flat-out denial by the NBA. We still think the teams most likely to be moved and sold are Sacramento and Minnesota, as each is having a hard time making it economically in their markets.

RELATED STORIES: Vegas group: We have contract for NBA team if our arena plan is approved; Master plan for Las Vegas arena includes NBA, NHL teams; Las Vegas foundation drops arena effort

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