The Hornets are operating under a unique business model as they map out their future for next season and beyond.
The franchise was purchased by the NBA last December and the league is looking for someone to sell it to, preferably someone who will commit to keeping the team in New Orleans long term. Though the NBA is the owner, team president Hugh Weber, whose tenure began well before the sale, and general manager Dell Demps, hired less than a year ago, handle the day-to-day operations.
Jac Sperling was appointed by the league to provide more of a hands-on presence, but it's still Weber and Demps who run the show. Though the league wants to make the franchise financially attractive to a buyer, Weber and Demps said they have the freedom to do what's necessary to upgrade the roster.
"They're not handcuffing us in any way, shape, or form," Weber said of league officials. "Like any team, owners typically give their leadership a budget and expectations to work within a budget. ... We have a lot of flexibility with free agents on our roster now."
Demps and coach Monty Williams are evaluating the roster, preparing for the draft and mapping out a plan for trying to upgrade the roster. The three leaders agreed that the 46-36 record and surprisingly strong battle against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs was a nice start but just a start.
"We have something we can build on," Demps said. "We want to keep adding to this. The players bought in to the coaches' system. I think the coach did a fantastic job of having them prepared to play every night.
"The bar has been set now, and we're going to keep taking the necessary steps to go to the next place. To say that we're satisfied is probably not the right word, but we're moving in the right direction and want to build on what we were able to do this year."
The new-look Hornets opened a lot of eyes at the outset of the season, using a tenacious defense to win their first eight games. After becoming the last team to lose a game, they won three in a row to complete an 11-1 start. That established them as legitimate playoff contenders, a status they maintained the rest of the season.
The Hornets started to look like a team that might have been figured out by the rest of the league when they followed their 11-1 start with 13 losses in 20 games. That left them at 18-14 as 2010 was drawing to a close. They went into Boston on New Year's Eve and took advantage of a short-handed Celtics team to win 83-81, then prevailed in Washington 92-81 the next day, triggering a stretch of 13 wins in 15 games, which got them back on track.
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