In his annual state of the league address Saturday night, NBA Commissioner David Stern declined to confirm or identify if the group led by Los Angeles area businessman Raj Bhathal has emerged as a top candidate to purchase the New Orleans Hornets.

But Stern did say they are in discussions with one group and they have another group in sort of second place that is waiting to see how discussions go forth with group one.

Asked if the second group was from Seattle, which is pushing to get back to the NBA after losing the SuperSonics in 2008 when the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City, Stern said, “No.”

Sources confirm that Bhathal, who founded one of the country’s leading swimwear manufacturing companies, is the frontrunner. The group includes Larry J. Benson, brother of Saints owner, Tom Benson and former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy.

The second group is headed by former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest, the billionaire owner of Edison Chouest Offshore who was forced to sell his 35 percent stake in the team in December 2010 when the league purchased the team from former majority owner George Shinn.

– Reported by John Reid of theĀ New Orleans Times Picayune