Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday night the NBA is close to finalizing a deal to keep the Hornets in New Orleans with a very favorable lease, important capital improvements, intense tax benefits and a new television deal.

Stern made the comments before Utah's game against Phoenix. He's in Salt Lake City for a luncheon that in part will honor late Jazz owner Larry H. Miller.

Stern prefaced his comments by telling a joke, saying "soon" when asked about the Hornets' deal.

But he said the league was in intense negotiations with three groups. He was hopeful he could tell team owners at a meeting next week the deal was done, close or that he was on the verge of a deal.

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