Staples could host NBA draft

LOS ANGELES -- The NBA draft could be moving to Los Angeles next year and possibly the next three years as Madison Square Garden undergoes summer construction which won't be complete until 2014.

Tim Leiweke, President and CEO of AEG, said Monday he is currently talking to the league about holding the NBA draft at Staples Center or the Nokia Theatre next year and is hoping it will be a partnership that will last longer than that.

"We are talking to them and they are a high priority for us," said Leiweke. "They're comfortable here; they helped design our campus so it would be a perfect fit."

A league source says a timetable hasn't been set on announcing the location for next year's draft but chances are good the draft could be moving away from New York for the first time since 2001 as Madison Square Garden undergoes offseason construction.

"We've told them they can have it here for one, two, three years, whatever they need," Leiweke said. "We'll give them the flexibility that they need. We have a window that's open for [next year's NBA draft] so from a scheduling standpoint it works out well for us and them."

The NHL draft is being held at Staples Center on Friday and Saturday and Leiweke said the NBA is already looking at ways to utilize the LA Live campus during the draft as the NHL did this week.

"We have a tremendous relationship with the NBA so we stay in constant communication," he said. "They're aware of what we're doing this week and they're keeping an eye out on us and trying to see what the NHL did to activate the campus so I am extremely optimistic if the NBA makes a decision to move that we have a really good shot at getting them here."

Leiweke said he wasn't sure when he would know if the NBA draft would be coming to Los Angeles but said he would make the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre available to them and hopes a decision will be made by the time the NBA All-Star Game is held at Staples Center on Feb. 20.

If the NBA decides to move the draft to Los Angeles it would likely be held at the Nokia Theatre across the street from Staples Center. Nokia Theatre, a 7,100-seat venue, is more similar to the NBA draft's current home, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, which seats 5,600.

"The NBA could go into Nokia and it would actually be big for them compared to where they do it now or they could do it at Staples," Leiweke said. "It's their choice but we've made it clear to them that they could have either."

Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com