NEW YORK - The Nets may be steps away from new ownership, but will they have a place to play?
Politically connected developer Bruce Ratner needs numerous government approvals before his glass-walled Frank Gehry arena can be built above a railyard minutes from downtown Brooklyn.
City and state agencies must approve infrastructure changes, tax breaks and condemnations of neighboring homes that could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Government officials dealing with Ratner said negotiations have yet to focus on the specifics of state and city aid to the developer. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki are eager to have pro sports back in Brooklyn but remains wary of straining public coffers, city and state officials said.
Ratner still must sign an agreement with Community Youth Organization, which owns the Nets. Then the deal must be ratified by the board of YankeeNets, the holding company of the Nets and New York Yankees, which is to meet today, as well as NBA owners.
HORNETS: Guard Baron Davis will miss two more games with a sprained left ankle. He also sat out Wednesday's 92-86 loss to Philadelphia after being injured during the fourth quarter of Monday's game at Minnesota. He will miss Friday's game in Denver and Saturday's home game against San Antonio.
ALL-STAR WEEKEND: Two-time defending champion Peja Stojakovic of Sacramento will head a field of six in the 3-point-shooting contest during the NBA All-Star weekend. A victory will enable Stojakovic to join Larry Bird and Craig Hodges as the only players to win three years in a row.
Brent Barry and Rashard Lewis of Seattle, Chauncey Billups of Detroit, Voshon Lenard of Denver and Cuttino Mobley of Houston will try to stop Stojakovic in the competition Feb. 14 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
TRIP TO VEGAS: The owners of the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings would love to see a team in one of the nation's fastest-growing cities, even if that locale also is the nation's gambling capital - Las Vegas.
While discussing the topic of expansion, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said during a conference call that Las Vegas was their top choice for a 31st franchise, whenever the league is ready to expand again. A 30th team will start next season in Charlotte, N.C.
Actually, Cuban called Las Vegas "my first bet," a phrase that cuts to the reason why such a booming area lacks a team in any of the four major pro sports.
Because gambling is legal in the city - including at a hotel owned by the Maloof family - the NBA and other leagues have preferred to literally distance themselves.
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