After 24 years and two NBA championships, owner Leslie Alexander wants to sell the Houston Rockets. Dikembe Mutombo wants us all to know that he’s got five on it … or that he’s trying to get together lots of people who will, anyway.
The legendary shot-blocker, who spent the final five seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Rockets before retiring in 2009, told Mark Berman of Houston’s Fox 26 on Tuesday that he “is working on putting a group together that he hopes will try and buy the Rockets franchise.” More from Berman:
“I’m working on it,” Mutombo said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “I’m talking to a lot of people already since [Monday]. We’ll see. I’m just talking to the people who can cut the check and they can make me be part of it. I’m working on that.” […]
Mutombo said the Rockets franchise presents a great opportunity for the next owner.
“It’s like someone who’s already sitting on the runway trying to take off,” Mutombo said. “That’s what kind of team the Rockets are right now.
“The Rockets are a great franchise. They have a great team. They’ve got great coaches, great basketball players, great staff. Whoever is coming in, it’s not like they’re going to have to rebuild it.
“I’m trying to convince some people about trying to buy this team. It’s one of the best franchises right now. It’s really the right time.”
No arguments there, with respect to the organization Alexander has built. The Rockets have made five straight playoff appearances, with three 50-win seasons during that stretch, and have three key pieces — in-his-prime superstar and MVP runner-up James Harden, Coach of the Year-winning offensive visionary head coach Mike D’Antoni, well-regarded general manager Daryl Morey — all locked into long-term deals. Morey just pulled off a blockbuster deal to import All-Star point guard Chris Paul to pair with Harden in what should be one of the NBA’s most explosive backcourts, and worked around the edges to add pieces like P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute to help bolster Houston’s perimeter defense, fortifying the core of a 55-win team.
The Rockets have a roster that looks set to compete for several years in a top-10 U.S. media market. They have a large fan base in Asia dating back to the selection of Yao Ming with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA draft, one whose attention only figures to be bolstered by the arrival of 7-foot-1 Zhou Qi, a 2016 second-round pick. The NBA’s $24 billion broadcast rights deal, and the share of nine figures’ worth of subscription fees from their own regional sports network, bolster their revenues.
Add in other factors like a relatively new arena with inexpensive annual rent costs, and the Rockets look like a tremendously valuable asset that should generate some massive bids. It’s likely the eventual sale price will surpass the $1.65 billion valuation that Forbes magazine set out for the franchise in February; it’s possible, too, that it could top the record-setting $2 billion that Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers back in 2014.
To get in that game, Mutombo’s going to need some friends with deep pockets. A pair of local businessmen, billionaire restaurant and casino owner Tilman Fertitta and furniture chain owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, have both expressed interest in pursuing a stake in the Rockets.
How large a share Mutombo would plan to pursue, what kind of financial commitment that would require, what sort of role he’d have in the franchise’s operations — these all remain open, unanswered questions. But after showing interest in buying into the Atlanta Hawks before they officially went on the market in 2015, only to find himself on the outside of Antony Ressler’s $850 million purchase, Mutombo’s eager for another chance to continue his off-court career as a businessman by moving into the owner’s suite.
“A lot of people think it’s a great thing,” Mutombo told Berman. “It’s a great opportunity. “Now it’s just a question of the number. There’s going to be a lot of discussion, and a lot of cash.”
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