Warriors sale could lead to big changes

OAKLAND, Calif. – With Monday’s announcement that the Golden State Warriors are officially for sale, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison remains at “the top of the list” of suitors for the franchise, NBA sources said.

The Warriors announced Monday they have hired Galatioto Sports Partners to spearhead the sale of the struggling franchise. Sources said as many as six potential buyers have made inquiries and a sale could be completed within three months, but Ellison is the only suitor who has so far publicly acknowledged his interest.

“He’s at the top of the list,” one league source said. “Everyone else is two, three, four and five. If he wants to buy it, he’s going to buy it.”

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson also could have some interest in becoming involved in an ownership group, a source said, provided he sells his minority stake in the Lakers. George Postolos, who had hoped to buy the Charlotte Bobcats, also could surface as a potential buyer.

Ellison is ranked by Forbes magazine as the sixth-richest person in the world with a total wealth of $28 billion. If Ellison were to purchase the Warriors, league sources say former Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies general manager Jerry West could emerge as a leading candidate to head basketball operations for the franchise.

Warriors owner Chris Cohan has considered selling the franchise for several months. Sources say Cohan believes he can make more money if he sells now than next year when an expected capital-gains tax increase could trim his sale profit.

Michael Jordan recently purchased the Charlotte Bobcats for a reported $275 million. In 2004, Robert Sarver led an ownership group that bought the Phoenix Suns for an NBA record $401 million. One source projected the price of the Warriors would exceed that of the Suns largely because of the attractiveness of the Bay Area market.

Cohan has owned the Warriors for 17 seasons, and the franchise’s lack of success during his tenure has angered Bay Area fans. Golden State again ranks near the bottom of the Western Conference standings this season. An ownership change could lead to an overhaul of the team’s front-office and coaching staffs.

Warriors coach Don Nelson has one year remaining on his contract worth $6 million, but didn’t sound concerned about his future.

“There’s a possibility, sure. But they can change anything, anytime they want,” said Nelson, who is 69. “No, I’m not nervous about anything. I’m almost 70 years old. I don’t get nervous about anything any more. I will say I get nervous when [his wife] Miss Joy is not happy.”

Nelson needs five wins to pass Lenny Wilkens for the most by a coach in NBA history. The Warriors have 12 games remaining, which makes Nelson far from a lock to get the record this season.

“If it happens, it happens,” Nelson said. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The players probably want to get it for me more than I want it.”

Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.

Marc Spears is an NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Monday, Mar 22, 2010