Bill Simmons: Hornets intentionally antagonized their fans

(Had to get this up before the game tonight. The Game On post for Hornets-Bucks is here.)

Just want to take a minute to talk about Bill Simmons’ latest article over at, in which he states the following:

And the Hornets nearly committed franchise suicide with a Chandler trade that seemed curious considering they have attendance triggers tied to their current lease.

(Note: Any conspiracy theorist — here I am! — could argue the Hornets intentionally antagonized their fans in a last-ditch attempt to shed the lease. They need to average about 15,000 fans to activate the lease through 2014, and they’re a few hundred over this season … but that number would have dropped after the Chandler trade, right? Would you put a ploy that devious past the likes of George Shinn? Me neither.)

My first and second instinct is to roll my eyes at that conspiracy theory, but just for the hell of it, let’s take a look and see how plausible it is.

The Hornets current arena lease runs through 2014. About a year ago they renegotiated with the state of Louisiana, the agreement being that the Hornets can opt out of the lease this summer if average attendance between December 1, 2007 and this season’s end is lower than 14,735.

Before everyone found out about the Chandler trade, the Hornets average attendance since December 1, 2007 was 15,619 (not including playoffs; I don’t think they count). The trade went down with 14 regular season games left. Assuming that George Shinn did indeed have a devious ploy as Simmons suggests, the average attendance for those last 14 games would have had to be less than 10,882 for the Hornets to miss that benchmark and opt out of their lease.

Given that 17,265 folks showed up to see the Hornets battle Orlando after the trade was announced (and before it was rescinded), we can come to one of two conclusions: a) George Shinn isn’t very smart when it comes to devious ploys, or b) Bill Simmons should have checked the numbers before throwing his words around.

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