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Stern impressed by city's support

By Darnell Mayberry and Berry Tramel Modified: March 6, 2008 at 12:11 am •  Published: March 6, 2008
One day after Oklahoma City citizens passed a temporary 1-cent sales tax to fund Ford Center renovations, NBA Commissioner David Stern commended the city's overwhelming support and reiterated his belief that the Seattle SuperSonics appear destined for Oklahoma City.

"I think it's a strong sign of support for the NBA, and we're gratified by it,” Stern told Salt Lake City reporters Wednesday night before the Jazz hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves.

When asked about the odds of the Sonics' Oklahoma-based ownership group winning its federal court case with the City of Seattle and playing in Oklahoma City next season, Stern, who recently called the Sonics' relocation an "inevitability,” wouldn't speculate. But for the second time in 2 ½ weeks, Stern voiced his resignation to an eventual move.

"The one benefit I have from a misspent youth as a lawyer is that I would never make any odds on any litigation other than to say that I think the odds are increasing that the team will go to Oklahoma City,” Stern said. "Even though I (am) a betting man, I wouldn't bet on the exact timing of it.”

The Sonics' ownership group and the City of Seattle are scheduled to go to trial June 16 to decide whether the team can fulfill its KeyArena lease obligation through a financial payment or must play in the arena until September 2010.

But the next key date in Oklahoma City's pursuit of an NBA franchise is now March 25, when the relocation committee comes to town to consider the city's assets before making a recommendation to the Board of Governors during league meetings on April 17-18. Stern is expected to join NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver, President of League and Basketball Operations Joel Litvin and several others in the league's senior management on the one-day visit.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who was congratulated by Stern via phone Wednesday morning, said Stern was impressed with Tuesday night's results.

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