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Timberwolves Sent Back to Minneapolis : Pro basketball: Stern says $152.5-million offer from New Orleans group “wasn’t complete enough,” but he expects league to be sued.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Goodby Bourbon Street, hello judge.

The NBA relocation committee on Wednesday turned down a New Orleans group’s $152.5-million offer to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves, a move that is expected to tip off a round of lawsuits.

Starting it, the league filed an action in federal district court in Minneapolis, where it is assured of popular support, asserting its right to set criteria for prospective buyers.

Commissioner David Stern said Top Rank of Louisiana failed to furnish enough data pertaining to its offer, so the Timberwolves will stay in Minnesota for the 1994-95 season.

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Stern said he expects Top Rank to sue.

“We have pleadings available for birthdays, franchise transfers and collective bargaining (the NBA Players Assn. is threatening to sue to block the coming draft),” Stern said. “We’re being sued for just about every occasion in the NBA.

“It’s called ‘Raiders vs. the NFL.’ . . . Every time a franchise is transferred or not, there’s a lawsuit, whether it was the Raiders, the San Francisco Giants, the Clippers.”

Stern said the New Orleans offer “wasn’t complete enough” but “may mature into something that is solid.”

A Minneapolis group, headed by a local businessman named Bill Sexton, said it has raised its offer to $149 million, aided by state and city pledges of aid.

An 18-man delegation from Minnesota made a presentation at NBA offices Wednesday. For the time being, the financially strapped owners, Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner, who have to meet a $72-million balloon payment on a loan from a Japanese bank, will continue to operate the team.

Wolfenson and Ratner announced three weeks ago that they had sold the Timberwolves to the Louisiana group headed by boxing promoter Bob Arum.

Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards said there was no justification for the NBA’s move and pledged to help Top Rank if it decides to go to court.

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“After all, the sellers--present owners of the Timberwolves--were satisfied with the financial arrangements,” Edwards said. “That should be adequate for all concerned.

“I understand in a previous situation, the Los Angeles Clippers took the NBA to court and won the case with the court ordering approval of the move.”


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