Another day, another new professional sports league.

The Los Angeles Stars of the ABA 2000 will start playing basketball in December at the Great Western Forum, a venture its owners think can be financially successful in a city that already has the Lakers, Clippers and Sparks, not to mention the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans.

The new eight-team league hopes to emulate the spirit if not the success of the long-defunct American Basketball Association by presenting a game more exciting and less expensive than the NBA's.

Given that the average cost for a family of four to attend a Lakers game at Staples Center is more than $400, attaining that second goal seems assured. Whether it is possible to create enough enthusiasm for a minor league team, even at discount prices, remains to be seen.

While acknowledging the inherent challenges, team management is confident it can turn a profit.

"The Lakers have a great fan base. I know because I helped build it," said Steve Chase, Stars vice president for business operations and a former Lakers marketing executive. "But there are 12 million people in (Los Angeles). Ninety-nine percent of the people in this market cannot afford to go to see the Lakers. Those 99 percent belong to us."

The Stars are owned by Bobby Roberts, a Hollywood producer behind such films as "Death Wish," who put up $55,000 to secure his team's place in the league. Day-to-day operations will be run by his son, Todd Roberts, his business partner Mike Selsman, and Chase.

Selsman and the two Roberts may be unknown in the world of basketball, but the team gained some credibility by hiring former Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes as vice president of basketball operations, and former Lakers and Loyola Marymount University head coach Paul Westhead as coach of the Stars. Westhead coached and Wilkes played on the 1980 Lakers championship team, lead by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

A new game

The 10-man roster will be staffed mostly by players cut from NBA teams and former college players; a draft will determine each team's rights to available players. The rules will be slightly different than those of the NBA. Zone defense will be allowed and fouling out eliminated. In an effort to speed up the game and increase scoring, teams that steal the ball in their opponents' backcourt and score will get three points instead of two, or four points if shooting behind the three-point line.


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