9:00pm: Grant Hill has partnered with billionaire investors and longtime Southern California residents Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh to form an ownership group to bid on the Clippers, Marc Stein of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.
SATURDAY, 11:41am: Yao has denied the report, telling Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that the news took him by surprise. “I just heard about it in the morning my time,” Yao said via email. “I really don’t know where this news came from.”
FRIDAY, 6:45pm: Both Grant Hill and Yao Ming are lining up investor groups to try and purchase the Clippers, sources tell Stein. While the Clippers aren’t yet for sale, disgraced owner Donald Sterling will likely sell the team, either by cooperating with the league or by a forced ouster. Hill, who retired from playing just under a year ago, has made it known within league circles that he’s putting together a group to pursue the team once it’s available. Since retiring, Hill has been rumored as a front office executive for the Suns and, more recently, the Pistons.
It appears Yao could be further along in the process than Hill. Yao already owns a team in China, and is expected to pursue the Clippers with a group of Chinese investors. Stein reports that Yao was initially interested in purchasing the Bucks, but dropped out of the bidding when former owner Herb Kohl insisted a new owner would keep the team in Milwaukee.
Yao and Hill join a growing list of potential buyers that includes Magic Johnson‘s Guggenheim Partners, among others. The franchise is expected to sell for over $1 billion, and a large-scale bidding war is a possibility. While Yao and Hill might not be quite as compelling as Johnson in reversing the negative attention brought on the NBA by Sterling’s actions, both are highly respected potential Hall-of-Famers that the league would presumably be more than comfortable with as franchise owners.
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.