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Heisley Narrows It Down

Pro basketball: Grizzlies' owner, who will visit Anaheim Tuesday, says it is unlikely team will move to St. Louis.

February 25, 2001|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With four days left until team owner Michael Heisley is supposed to tell the NBA where he would like to move the Vancouver Grizzlies next season, he has all but dropped St. Louis from consideration.

As officials from the city of Anaheim and the Arrowhead Pond worked through the weekend to prepare for Heisley's scheduled Tuesday visit, the finalists to land the Grizzlies appear to be Anaheim, Louisville and New Orleans.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Heisley said a move to St. Louis is "not a real high probability." He also said he hopes NBA Commissioner David Stern will extend Thursday's deadline and said it would be "highly undesirable" and "absolutely so painful" for him to return to Vancouver next season. Heisley, who claims losses of some $40 million this season, also said he would sell to anyone who would keep the team in Vancouver but has received no such offer.

Heisley bought the Grizzlies for $160 million last year, after the NBA rebuffed Bill Laurie's attempt to buy the team for $200 million and eventually move it to St. Louis. Heisley met last week with Laurie, who owns the St. Louis Blues and controls the local arena. He told the Sun that Laurie wanted to purchase majority ownership but at a price that reflected a franchise value "substantially below what his view of the value was last year."

Heisley, who has operated the Grizzlies for less than one full season, has been vilified in Vancouver since announcing his intention to explore moving the team, to the point where the home page of one web site declared that local fans should "Save the Grizzlies--Hunt the Owner," with a picture of Heisley's face with a target on it. Given a second chance, Heisley said, he would secretly negotiate a deal with a new city and then announce his plan to move.

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