Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says he hopes Seattle lands an NBA franchise but figures it’s still a few years away.

Ballmer spoke to reporters Monday before teeing off in a “Snoqualmie Showdown” charity round of celebrity golf with Fred Couples, Rick Neuheisel and Sports Radio KJR morning radio host Mitch Levy ahead of the Boeing Classic later this month at Snoqualmie Ridge.

He expressed regret at leaving the group fronted by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen that is trying to bring the NBA back to Seattle, but said the opportunity to buy the Los Angeles Clippers was too big to pass up.

“It was my dream to have a team in Seattle,” said Ballmer, speaking locally for the first time since his $2 billion offer in May to buy the Clippers, which is held up in a court battle between the league and outgoing owner Donald Sterling. “I spent some time on that and worked on it and I wish that had worked. I don’t know when that will happen. With luck, maybe it happens in the next few years, but if it takes a few more than that, I decided that this was probably the best path for me to take.”

Ballmer added: “It is really unfortunate that the greatest city in America doesn’t have a professional basketball team. And so, I still hope that happens.”

California Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas last week issued a tentative decision that Shelly Sterling has sole authority to sell the Clippers to Ballmer. She’d already taken control of family assets away from her husband of 58 years, saying doctors had declared him mentally incapacitated.

The deal must close by Aug. 15.

But Ballmer reiterated, as he has several times since making the bid, there’s no chance he’ll eventually move the Clippers to Seattle. He said the NBA would never allow it and he paid the price he did because the Clippers are a Los Angeles-based team.

“Probably most people will tell you I paid an L.A. beachfront price, not a Seattle beachfront price for the team,” he said. “I’m not crazy.”

Ballmer said he’ll miss working with his “friends” and “neighbors” in the Hansen group, though he’s still part-owner of the land in the group’s Sodo arena proposal.