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Old 09-13-2007, 06:49 PM   #1
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Default Hawks owners unrestricted by Belkin

With a Maryland Court of Special Appeals' ruling on Tuesday, the Atlanta Spirit LLC ownership group of the NBA's Hawks and the NHL's Thrashers no longer have restrictions upon the length of contracts in which they can enter, according to Bruce Levenson, one of the owners.

Previously, estranged owner Steve Belkin had a court order that allowed him to approve or deny contracts longer than four years.

The ruling affects two All-Star players in particular, the Hawks' Josh Smith and the Thrashers' Marian Hossa. Both have contracts that expire after the 2007-08 season and the market for each could exceed four years.

"Yes, it does remove all the restrictions the lower court judge placed on us," Levenson said in an e-mail.

A Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court had previously granted Belkin the right to buy out his fellow owners for the right to the two organizations and Philips Arena, pending appeal.

Tuesday's decision reversed that. Now, the non-Belkin owners again have the opportunity to buy out Belkin. The group ceased to function as a cohesive unit after a disagreement involving the Hawks' proposed sign-and-trade acquisition of Joe Johnson. Belkin, in his role as NBA governor, had tried to veto the deal that general manager Billy Knight had agreed to and which the other owners, who owned a majority stake in the group, supported.

However, their proposed buyout of Belkin has led to a lengthy and messy court battle.

Agent Brian Dyke, who represents Smith, offered no comment on the developments.


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