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Terry offer still seems tenuous

Hawks want him, but pending sale is at forefront

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For a few hours Monday, it appeared as if the Utah Jazz's chances of actually signing free-agent point guard Jason Terry had improved.

The Jazz signed Terry to a three-year, $24 million offer sheet last week. That means his current team, the Atlanta Hawks, have 15 days to match the offer.

The Hawks had given indications they wanted to re-sign Terry, pending a sale of the team, plus the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team and Philips Arena, to new owners.

Early Monday, it was announced that Hawks owner AOL-Time Warner had decided not to sell the team to the group they'd been negotiating with for weeks, led by Texas businessman David McDavid.

That led to speculation that the sale might be delayed indefinitely, which would bode well for the Jazz's chances of acquiring Terry in the interim.

But late Monday afternoon, The Associated Press reported that AOL-Time Warner apparently has a buyer for the teams. The company declined to identify the group or its members, saying only that it includes "local partners."

A source familiar with the deal told AP Monday night that the investment group includes Boston businessman Steve Belkin, who previously pursued an NBA expansion team in Charlotte; and several Atlantans, including businessmen Michael Gearon Sr. and Michael Gearon Jr. and attorney Rutherford Seydel. Seydel is the son-in-law of Ted Turner, who owned the Hawks and Thrashers before ceding control to AOL-Time Warner. Belkin founded the Trans National Group, a direct-response marketing and investment company.

What this all means for the Jazz's effort to acquire Terry remains to be seen. If nothing else, it would appear to indicate that the Hawks finally will have some ownership stability. If they choose to retain the services of GM Billy Knight, Terry likely will remain a Hawk. Over the weekend, Knight told ESPN.com's David Aldridge that the Hawks planned to match the Jazz's offer sheet.

In that story, Aldridge also quoted Terry reiterating what he said last week, that he's really serious about playing for Utah.

"It's a young team," Terry said. "But they said I'd become the young leader of that team. That would be fine with me . . . I've had four different coaches in Atlanta. In Utah, the system's in place. I can just come in and execute it. I love (Andrei) Kirilenko. I've been watching him on TV this week (playing for Russia in the European Basketball Championships), and their coaching staff is probably the biggest thing for me."

E-MAIL: rich@desnews.com