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Stern cites progress on Prokhorov

NEW YORK — National Basketball Commissioner David Stern voiced optimism Thursday that Mikhail Prokhorov's bid to buy a majority share of the New Jersey Nets could be approved by the end of the year.

Stern, speaking at the conclusion of the NBA's Board of Governors' meetings, also said he expected the league to reach agreement with referees in their labor dispute as early as Friday.

"I'm hopeful with respect to both and optimistic with respect to both," Stern said of the two issues.

Prokhorov, who has a deal in the works to buy 80 percent of the Nets, had a positive introduction with NBA owners during the two days of meetings.

The sale must be approved by three-fourths of the league's owners. The league is currently performing background checks of Russia's richest man.

"The review process is incomplete and the documents are not finalized," Stern said. "That said, we haven't surfaced anything that has caused us to have a negative opinion of him. We're not finished."

But Stern added: "We're looking forward to the completion of that transaction."

Prokhorov would become the NBA's first owner from outside North America.

Stern said he had rejoined the negotiations with the referees' union this week and a tentative agreement was reached.

A full vote is scheduled on Friday on a new two-year contract between the league and the officials, and if it's approved the referees would be in place in time for the first day of the season on Tuesday.

Stern said it was "our hope that they approve it, but there's no guarantees."

Amid concerns over H1N1 flu, Stern said owners voted to give the league office emergency powers to determine what happens if teams can't field the minimum eight players because of illness.

The National Football League earlier announced changes in their roster rules to allow teams to field players from their practice squads if a minimum of six players are diagnosed with H1N1 flu.

Source: AFP

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More Resources

Commentary and opinions: a selection of excerpts from speeches and presentations by Mikhail Prokhorov