Yes, sources indicated that the league would try to find a sole buyer or investment group that would keep the Hornets in New Orleans. There’s no reason to doubt the attempt wouldn’t be made.
But if the highest bidder came from, say, Seattle, the NBA’s desire to keep the team in New Orleans probably would take a back seat to that. In money matters, generally what matters most is money. And if deeper pockets from outside Louisiana emerge, and if that means the franchise is more likely to be economically sound because of it, the NBA hardly would be inclined to make a bad business decision.Sports Illustrated reports Sunday that the NBA's takeover of the Hornets is imminent -- it could happen within the next few days -- and lists Kansas City, Anaheim and Chicago as possible relocation sites. One would assume the current sale process, which has dragged on for nearly a year, would have exhausted any other possible local ownership groups during its early stages. And if the giant "for sale" sign on the Hornets for the last nine months didn't attract a legit local buyer, it's difficult to see how a new "for sale" sign, this time embossed by the NBA's logo, is going to make much of a difference in the gulf. Making the possibility of relocation even more likely is a recent report that the Hornets are not hitting the attendance benchmarks needed to lock itself into its arena lease in New Orleans. In other words, should an outside buyer emerge with an eye towards moving the team to his destination of choice, a la Clay Bennett and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a major, expensive hurdle that usually exists wouldn't be there to slow down the process. It's grim news for the Hornets, their fans and, especially, new coach Monty Williams and new general manager Dell Demps, who have put the team's roster in order quickly upon their arrivals this summer and have created a winning basketball atmosphere in the face of all of this uncertainty and adversity. In the long run, a new owner not named George Shinn is better for all involved, but the sale of the team will undoubtedly remain a painful process, one that could cost the team its franchise player, Chris Paul. If I'm Paul, intent on winning and competing for an NBA title in the short-term, thanks to questions about my surgically-repaired knee -- I take a step back and realize that franchises with this much front office turmoil simply do not win titles -- nor consistently compete for them -- in the NBA. If this ownership group can't even sell its majority stake properly, and there are no prospective buyers anxious to do a better job, how will this franchise ever build a true contender? The answer? It won't. Which leaves Paul with two options: settle in for the (potentially years-long) long haul of up-and-down, day-to-day confusion about the franchise's direction, or start seriously exploring greener pastures. While trade requests are always met with a lot of backlash, in this case it's hard to tell who would blame him. It's one thing to carry four teammates on your back, it's another to carry an ownership group. No player can reasonably be expected to shoulder that burden. Update (5:25 pm):
The Times-Picayune reports Sunday afternoon that the NBA is maintaining a public commitment to the city of New Orleans, and has installed a Lousiana native to oversee the ongoing sale negotiations.
Jac Sperling, vice charrman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild is a New Orleans-born attorney who has in the past negotiated the sale of professional sports teams and guided the Wild into one of hockey's most successful franchises, according to a report at SI.com.
A league source said Sunday that NBA Commissioner David Stern would likely be taking these steps because he firmly wants the Hornets to remain in New Orleans. By taking over the team, the source said, Stern would be able to ensure a sale to someone who was also committed to keeping the team in New Orleans. The Hornets said team president Hugh Weber would not comment on the latest developments, but that Weber would still be in control of the day-to-day operations of the team.Of course the NBA is invested in franchise stability. And it's also invested in keeping Hornets fans interested in their team in the short term. The league has no choice but to take a pro-New Orleans stance publicly. But as Seattle recently taught basketball fans, money speaks far louder than rhetoric. The only hope for basketball in New Orleans is local money that has, to this point, been nonexistent.