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Joe Tsai takes in Warrior game, talks with Kenny Atkinson, Jeremy Lin

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YES Network

As the Nets hard-fought game with the Warriors drew to a close, YES Network cameras caught Joe Tsai, about to become the Nets minority owner (and heir apparent), talking with Kenny Atkinson. Later, Tsai, a Taiwanese-Canadian citizen, was seen talking to Jeremy Lin, who’s of Taiwanese parentage and who Tsai has described as “my favorite player.”

Diana Lee

Tsai and his wife were seen speaking with other Nets players as well.

Tsai, who has a home in LaJolla, California, sat courtside near the Nets bench with his family. It’s at least the third time he’s been seen at a Nets game since agreeing in principle to purchase 49.5 percent of the team from Mikhail Prokhorov. The reported price tag for the co-founder of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant: $1.13 billion. Under terms of the deal, as reported back in October, Tsai will assume ownership control of the Nets in 2022. Prokhorov would then become a minority stakeholder.

Tsai’s appearance is the latest indication that the long-delayed closing is near. It’s reportedly been close multiple times.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Arash Markazi, who covered the UCLA shoplifting incident, reports that Tsai played a critical role last November in the release of the three players, including LiAngelo Ball, who had been grabbed for stealing sunglasses from stores in Huangzhou, the home of Alibaba. Tsai was the sponsor of the game between UCLA and Georgia Tech as well as surrounding events.

Although President Trump sought to take credit for their release and berated LeVar Ball for not expressing gratitude, Markazi reports “charges were dropped, the bail refunded and the players’ passports returned two days before White House chief of staff John Kelly called the players to inform them that President Donald Trump was working on their release.”

In the days prior to the White House’s involvement, Markazi notes “Alibaba, with the backing of Tsai, was assisting UCLA and the Pac-12 during the entire ordeal, with the Federation University Sports China also offering their assistance if needed.”