x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Uncertainty for the New Orleans Hornets

A look at the problems facing the New Orleans Hornets with a new owner still to be found after the NBA bought the organisation from their financially troubled owner.

The New Orleans Hornets, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza in action for them above, are facing an uncertain future with questions over their ownership and whether they will stay in the city. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo
The New Orleans Hornets, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza in action for them above, are facing an uncertain future with questions over their ownership and whether they will stay in the city. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

For sale: the New Orleans Hornets. Interested parties please contact the NBA.

That is right, anyone wanting the Hornets will have to purchase the team directly from the NBA.

The league bought the Hornets from their financially troubled owner George Shinn a couple of weeks ago. Not wanting to see the team fall into financial disrepair or dumped in a fire sale, the NBA bought the Hornets for a reported US$300 million (Dh 1.1 billion).

And now the league runs a team. The NBA, where the amazing happens. David Stern, the NBA commissioner, needed to stabilise the franchise and then find an owner who would keep the team in New Orleans. He appointed Jac Sperling, a New Orleans native and a veteran sports executive, to direct the team's turnaround and sale.

Thus far no buyers are known to have stepped forward, although The San Jose Mercury News reported last week that Larry Ellison, the software billionaire, had offered to purchase the Hornets but was outbid by the NBA.

If New Orleans fans are puzzled by the entire scenario, it could get worse. After January 31 the Hornets can opt out of their lease with the state-owned New Orleans Arena if attendance fails to average 14,735 per game. They are currently averaging 14,086 in an arena the can hold 17,988.

New Orleans has already lost an NBA team once when the Jazz relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979. Shinn moved the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans in 2002. The city, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina five years ago and then hit hard economically last year by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has a populace weary of hardship and in no mood to lose the Hornets.

Arnold Fielkow, the city council president and a former New Orleans Saints executive, told the Los Angeles Times. "It would be a terrible loss for this community to not have the Hornets.''

Meanwhile, there is concern over who really is running the Hornets and how a major personnel decision would be reached.

Conflict of interest anyone?

"Who's going to [push] the button on trading players?" Phil Jackson the Los Angeles Lakers coach, asked. "When Chris [Paul] says he has to be traded, how is that going to go?"

New Orleans has one of the smallest markets in the NBA, with a population of approximately 1.2 million.

Season ticket sales have reportedly plunged from more than 10,000 two years ago to fewer than 7,000.

And then there is this: it is not the best time to sell a team, with a work stoppage being threatened when the collective bargaining agreement expiries on July 1.

sports@thenational.ae