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Some CBA teams play ball
By Craig DeVrieze / QUAD-CITY TIMES

Two former Continental Basketball Association franchises will begin a new chapter as International Basketball League opponents tonight in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a handful of other former CBA teams may join them next week.

The Quad-City Thunder will not be among them.

Thunder players will begin leaving the Quad-Cities today to look for opportunities elsewhere, general manager Kim Evans said Friday, a day after the league announced an indefinite suspension of play.

Former Thunder owner Jay Gellerman said again Friday that he will not accept Thursday’s offer from the trust representing Isiah Thomas to re-assume ownership of the team.

The Thunder are among at least six ex-CBA teams expected to close their doors for good, although IBL CEO Ralph Rossi Jr. said Friday that former CBA franchises and their ex-owners have an open invitation — with no specific deadline — to join his year-old, six-team league.

The CBA league office in Phoenix closed for business Thursday night.

Ivan Thornton, head of the trust representing Thomas, said Friday that decisions will be made next week regarding outstanding payroll and possible refunds on advance tickets by fans and sponsors whose teams will not be taken back by former owners.

Thornton said Thomas, who bought the CBA and its nine teams for $9 million-plus in 1999, will not be making a statement concerning the midseason collapse of the 55-year-old league.

He said Thomas is precluded from talking about the CBA as part of an October deal with the NBA’s Board of Governors that allowed him to coach the NBA’s Indiana Pacers by placing the CBA in the blind trust.

Meanwhile, a game pitting the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Gary Steelheads tonight will be the first involving former CBA teams under the IBL banner.

As of Friday night, those were the only two of 10 former CBA teams certain to continue operations as IBL league members this year. One source said Friday afternoon, though, that no fewer than four former CBA teams will follow in the coming days.

Said the IBL’s Rossi: “I believe there will be more than you think.”

Roger Larsen, the Sioux Falls insurance company owner who formerly owned the Skyforce, said Friday that he and partner Greg Heineman re-assumed ownership of the Sioux Falls club for the nominal fee of $1 paid to the trust. The agreement came with the stipulation that they assume all expenses and liabilities “going forward,” Larsen said.

Larsen did not say whether the Sioux Falls owners helped shape Thursday’s give-back offer by the trust representing Thomas, but confirmed they had talked to the trust as late as Thursday morning.

“It was simply the way it played out,” said Larsen, who met with the IBL’s Rossi a week ago to discuss purchasing the CBA from the trust in order to merge it with the IBL. “Isiah came back and did what was right, even though it was the 11th hour.”

Gary managing partner Jewel Thomas, who bought into the league as a minority expansion-team partner with Thomas last spring, did not return phone calls Friday, but said prior to Thursday’s offer: “If the CBA folds, we are on our own anyway.”

Former Idaho Stampede majority partner Bill Ilett and Fort Wayne associate owner Jay Leonard told the Quad-City Times on Thursday that they are not interested in re-assuming ownership of their teams.

Former Fury majority owner Jay Frye softened that stance some Friday, but not much, telling the Associated Press: “There is less than a one-percent chance of me getting back into this.”

Former La Crosse owner Bill Bosshard told the La Crosse Tribune he will not buy back in and the Associated Press reported that ex-Yakima Sun Kings owner Otis Harlan has no plans to pick up that franchise.

Former Rockford owner Wayne Timpe had been expected to commit Friday afternoon, but changed directions, telling the Rockford Register-Star he will use the coming weekend to review the IBL’s financial outlook. He will make a decision Monday.

Connecticut also may join the IBL. Although that franchise historically has failed to draw fans in big-market Hartford, deep-pocketed former owner Brian J. Foley never worried before about the financial bottom line.

Rossi indicated he will wait at least until Monday to make decisions on how former CBA teams will be integrated into the IBL.

“It will probably be partially integrated, depending on the number of teams and on the timing,” he said.

The IBL currently features teams in Las Vegas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Trenton, N.J., Albuquerque, N.M. and San Diego, Calif.

Portions of qcthunder.com use information from the Quad-City Times that is no longer being linked to on their site.