ATLANTA - Steve Belkin said he's "very thrilled" at the chance of owning both the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers after a Maryland court Friday gave him the right to become the only owner of the two teams.
"I absolutely want to own the teams, and this is not about money for me," the Boston businessman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Saturday. "It's been my passion and dream for over 20 years to own and control an NBA franchise, and it's clearly still my dream and passion today to own the Hawks and Thrashers and to build championship-caliber teams."
The current ownership group has vowed to fight the ruling. Belkin was forced out of the ownership group following a bitter and public dispute over the Hawks' decision to trade Boris Diaw, two first-round draft picks and a $4.9 million trade exception to the Phoenix Suns for Joe Johnson.
Belkin said Saturday that he didn't object to getting Johnson to play for the Hawks, but thought it could be done without trading Diaw and others.
"I clearly always wanted to spend the money, and today I still want Joe Johnson on the Atlanta Hawks," he said.
Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court Judge Eric Johnson ruled Friday the teams' seven other owners did not abide by the terms of an agreement to buy out Belkin. The judge said the group's actions triggered Belkin's right to buy them out and Belkin said he wants to own the teams.
"I think I can build championship-caliber teams, and I think... the skills I will bring and the Atlanta community will make a winning combination," he said.
If the ruling stands, Belkin is entitled to buy out the Atlanta Spirit LLC group for the NBA's Hawks, NHL's Thrashers and operating rights to Philips Arena.