Bobcats could get new owners


— The nine-month saga that is the sale of the Charlotte Bobcats could be resolved in the next three days, possibly today.

Sources close to the situation anticipate a quick resolution, as to whether Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan or ex-Houston Rockets president George Postolos will close a deal with majority owner Bob Johnson.

Jordan's window of first-refusal to buy the team is close to expiration, sources say, and he was still recruiting partners this week to invest $260 million or more to complete a purchase of Charlotte's NBA franchise.

Jordan has repeatedly declined interview requests on his effort to buy the team. Postolos, who now leads a Houston-based consulting firm, declined comment when reached Wednesday.

Postolos has patiently pursued this team, on behalf of various investors, since at least last spring. In that span, Johnson has placed the team up for sale, briefly pulled it off the market, and then re-engaged the sale process at roughly the start of the new year.

Responding to an Observer question Feb. 13, NBA Commissioner David Stern said he anticipated a Bobcats sale to be completed within 60 days. Any sale to a new owner would have to go through an approval process with the league's other 29 owners.

Johnson has lost tens of millions on the team since agreeing in 2002 to pay a $300 million expansion fee to the NBA. Most of the team's net value is still tied up in debt, and the sale price is expected to be considerably less than Johnson's initial investment - the $300 million to the NBA, plus about $30 million in working capital.

Despite those losses, the Bobcats are paying more than $68 million in player salaries this season, attempting to reach the playoffs for the first time. As recently as last week, the team added about $800,000 to the payroll by trading a future second-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for center Theo Ratliff.

The Bobcats also made a trade with the Chicago Bulls, exchanging guards Flip Murray and Acie Law for power forward Tyrus Thomas. That deal addressed a weakness - depth at power forward - but it robbed the team of a third point guard and Murray's scoring off the bench.

One solution to that problem could be signing combo guard Larry Hughes, who was waived late Tuesday by the Sacramento Kings after Hughes negotiated a buyout of his contract.

A source familiar with the situation said Hughes would like to sign with the Bobcats. Hughes played in Philadelphia for Bobcats coach Larry Brown and worked with Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins when Higgins was in management roles in Washington and Golden State.

Higgins and Brown both declined comment on Hughes, who would clear waivers late today.

Signing Hughes to a veteran-minimum contract in time to be playoff-eligible would cost the Bobcats about $240,000 the rest of the season, a number that would still keep them below the threshold to pay the NBA's luxury tax. Jordan and Higgins have said the team has no intention of being a tax-paying franchise this season.

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