There have been whispers for several years now that Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl was receptive to selling his NBA franchise.
Those whispers have noticeably intensified in recent weeks as the NBA attempts to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.
Kohl, who purchased the Bucks from Janesville businessman Jim Fitzgerald in 1985 for just under $19 million, has, like numerous NBA owners, lost several million dollars in recent years.
According to some individuals who have been actively involved in the CBA talks, Kohl has been one of the most "hawkish'' owners and has been quietly but forcefully lobbying behind the scenes for sweeping changes to the system.
Like most of his small-market colleagues Kohl has become increasingly frustrated by the glaring discrepancies between the small and large markets, especially when it pertains to competitive balance.
Unlike the NFL, where small-market Green Bay is the reigning Super Bowl champion and, unlike Major League Baseball, where small-market St. Louis recently won the World Series, major market teams have virtually monopolized the NBA championship.
The scuttlebutt is that unless radical changes are made to the NBA system, Kohl will likely sell the team. But there are also some other observers who insist Kohl will sell the team regardless of the CBA outcome.
Kohl has understandably kept a tight lip during CBA discussions. Miami's Micky Arison was one of the few owners who publicly expressed his feelings about the lockout and, literally, wound up paying a steep price.
Arison recently tweeted he wasn't necessarily in favor of sacrificing games in order to save money. NBA commissioner David Stern immediately fined Arison $500,000.
Stern, who has attempted to portray a unified owners front, had earlier fined Charlotte owner Michael Jordan (who once tried to buy the Bucks in the summer of 2003) and Washington's Ted Leonsis $100,000 for their comments regarding the lockout.
Kohl has made his feelings about the NBA revenue system clear to the other owners and has a strong supporter in Peter Holt, the chairman and chief executive officer of the San Antonio Spurs who has been prominently involved in negotiations.
Interestingly, there are rumblings that Holt, like Kohl, is contemplating selling his team as well.
There are some business analysts who believe that a CBA agreement favorable to the owners could drive up the value of each franchise anywhere from 10 to 15 percent because of the newly-defined financial parameters.
The owners have locked out the players since July 1 and it has taken a toll on virtually all 30 NBA teams. Nearly a dozen Bucks employees have been dismissed or left the organization.
Kohl, who is 76 and retiring as a United States senator, is arguably the most ardent and knowledgeable NBA owner. He not only has owned the Bucks for 26 years but he has been a lifelong NBA fan, having attended Milwaukee Hawks games back in the early '50s.
Kohl has also been loyal in keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee. He has repeatedly stated he would not sell the Bucks to anyone who had any intention of moving the team out of Milwaukee. It is believed that was one of the major obstacles in Kohl's decision not to sell the Bucks to Jordan.
A couple of quick hits on the prolonged lockout:
-- A so-called "amnesty clause'' is a cinch to be included in a final agreement. The clause would enable teams to dump one bad contract from their payroll.
However, contrary to several reports, I've been told the "amnesty'' player wouldn't be free to sign with another team. Instead, he would be subjected to a "bidding'' war for his services.
For example, if the Bucks opted to rid themselves of Drew Gooden's contract -- he has four years for $26 million -- other teams could bid to sign him.
The team that submit's the highest bid would then obtain his services and the Bucks would wind up paying the difference on the contract -- instead of the entire $26 million.
-- To no one's surprise, the mid-level exception will likely drop from $5.5 million to $5 million.
-- If the players union gets its wish, the next NBA draft could be one of the best in years. That's because the union wants any player who is 18 or older eligible for the draft. It would mean the end of the one-and-done college rule.
The owners, on the other hand, now want players to play two years in college before being eligible for the draft.