First things first, I won't gripe too much about the on court product which has been atrocious for the last ten or so games, I mainly want to talk about the collective issue concerning the team from a business standpoint. As has been reported (and as Hornets fans knew about as early as Thursday night), the only owner the team has ever known, George Shinn, eventually decided to sell the team to the NBA today in an effort to just rid himself of the franchise. All things considered, Shinn has been wanting to get rid of this team for a long time. He and Louisiana native Gary Chouest, the team's minority owner at a 35% share, announced in April that a deal was finalized between the two. A couple weeks later, Chouest, who owns and opperates an offshore oil business, saw the BP Oil Spill put a huge dip into his product and, as a result, started having reservations about the job. Soon enough, the New York Times reported that the deal would never happen. The New Orleans based Time-Picayune immediately refuted that, and nothign else was heard of until Friday not when Chouest announced that he was pulling out of the deal.
Now Shinn, on the other hand, successfully survived a bout with prostate cancer and has since tried to sell the team to Chouest to do whatever else he wants to do for the rest of his life. Because Chouest backed out of the deal, citing the impending NBA lockout as the huge reason why he wanted to back out, Shinn, desperate to get the team off his hands, decided to sell the team to the league. David Stern found an executive with the NHL's Minnesota Wild to opperate the team while they try to bridge a cell to a prospective owner, but the prospects overall in New Orleans don't look solid.
As has also been reported, and frequently whined about on my behalf for the better part of three seasons, the attendance in New Orleans sucks. Basically, the NBA kind of forced the Hornets to return to New Orleans, saw horrible attendance followed by great attendance in the postseason, and agreed on a deal where if the Hornets maintained an average attendace above 14,000, then the Hornets would stay at the New Orleans Arena through 2014. However, if the attendance didn't meet that requirement by January, the Hornets could file for relocation by March. It's really tricky considering that the attendance numbers are taken during football season and this early in the season as well. All in all, I don't like the way that's drawn up. But facts are facts and the way it stands, the NBA themselves can choose in the forthcoming weeks if they want to opt out of their lease in New Orleans.
Now, this isn't a guarantee that the Hornets are leaving New Orleans. David Stern is commited to keeping the team in New Orleans, or at least he has said so outwardly for the past five years, and there's still strong rumors that the NBA will simply hold on to the team until Chouest decides to reemerge as a candidate to purchase the franchise. But there's a lot of uncertainty. Fans in Seattle immediately have talked, but they must have forgotten that Key Arena still sucks and they didn't want to build a new arena to keep the Supersonics there, and after seeing how Charlotte has handled the Bobcats since the Hornets originally left there, I'm not sure Stern wants to replace one of his franchise to put one back in Seattle. Early indications are, obviously, that if a deal isn't reached to keep the team in New Orleans, then someone will purcahse the team and move them to Kansas City. Which I'd be more inclined to accept, as I'm a Hornets fan. I'm not a Seattle Supersonics fan.
Basically, the team is left at the hands of the owners. It's easy to say that it's in the owner's best interest for the Hornets to completely suck and therefore trade away all their superstars, but that's only partly the case. That would also be assuming that every owner in the league cares about winning. When Oklahoma City was looking to take Seattle originally, only two owners voted against it. One was Seattle's own Paul Allen and the other was Mark Cuban (who felt Oklahoma City was in Dallas' market). Owners basically make more cash if the teams are all in huge markets, something New Orleans obviously isn't. All that said, they'll basically sell the team to the highest bidder, who will be free to take the team wherever he wants.
As a last statement, this basically destroys the Hornets season. The great start hasn't been followed by any encouraging on court play as of late, but any hope of the team getting better via trade is finished. They're under the luxury tax now, and there's no chance that David Stern or the league agrees to pay the luxury tax and allow the Hornets to use trade exceptions or even some of the expiring contracts on the team (Marcus Banks, Willie Green, etc.) to get better. The Hornets will basically stay as they are, or make minor moves that will keep them under the luxury tax. There will be no moves being made to get better. Not this season, and not until a new owner comes in either.
I mainly wanted to get this off my chest, as I'm genuinely upset to see my favorite team suffer through two (three if you count Oklahoma City) relocations like this. I'm 70% sure that this is it for the Hornets in New Orleans and while that may be good for the long term benefit of the franchise, it's still tough to see your favorite team suffer as it is. Basically from on the court issues and all the implications this sale to the NBA brings with it, it's fair to assume that the Hornets are in deep, deep trouble.