As one might expect, I spend a good deal of time thinking about the New Orleans Hornets. Among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune the franchise and the ‘fanchise’ have endured, the de facto foreclosure by the NBA is not only unprecedented in NBA history, but also potentially a structurally important nail in the coffin of pro basketball’s future here.
On the other hand, it is also potentially the best thing that could have happened to New Orleans pro basketball.
On some fictional third hand, or maybe a Count-Tyrone-Rugen-esqe sixth finger, it could be the best thing to happen with regard to the future of the NBA.
For the time being, let’s not consider the quality ownership before and after NBA stewardship. We don’t know what the next owner will be like, so we can’t compare. I can picture better (rich, nice, vicisous competitor, lover of mathematics) and worse (a guy or gal that wants the team outside of New Orleans).
Going back, the NBA purchased the team from its ownership group early last season. The team was not regularly profitable, but was not bleeding cash from operations. Corporate sponsorship and ticket sales were declining, but were not in the NBA cellar either. Tremendous attention to the documented attendance benchmarks caused negative attention that teams in the lower third of the NBA don’t normally receive. Let’s face it, every team has benchmarks that are not in a contract. Ask Sacramento if you don’t believe me. If you did decide to ask me instead, those benchmarks are a reflection of the owner’s self-evaluation of their own business acumen than of the In-itude of the fans.
Who wants my soap box?
The point is the Hornets are a team with potential to be a success as a competitive team and a business. Despite this potential, the previous ownership’s debt prevented them from continuing on, especially in the face of a looming lockout, in an NBA where owners, on average, lose money, and under pressures external to the NBA.
I am of the opinion that the NBA bought the team to avoid embarassment following a team becoming insolvent.
I am of the strong opinion that the NBA will turn a profit on this deal, if in no other way that they got their line-of-credit money back that they were in danger of never seeing again.
I am of the very strong opinion that the Commissioner Stern would think it ideal if the team remains in New Orleans. I think he genuinely, personally, wants the team here after his failure to help find local ownership before the Jazz moved, largely due to lack of support from the business community. From a buisness standpoint, there may be bigger markets that one could imagine would be so great for the NBA to tap, but ask the NFL if money from big markets like . . . Los Angeles . . . just jumps in the boat like carp. In terms of image, it’d be best for the NBA to not interfere so directly and actively as a relocation agent. They should just be bridging the gap between one local owner selling and another buying, taking good care of the product in the meantime.
I am absolutely certain that the NBA will relocate this team if no local owner comes forth with a serious, competitive offer complete with state support and at least a positive outlook for a good local tv deal, as the current deal is in it’s last season now . . . if this can be called a season . . . time will tell . . .
Considering the good and the bad that has befallen the franchise since the NBA’s takeover compared to that in the 9 months before, NBA ownership has not shown itself to be what our darkest fears rightly indicated: a group that gets us to finance the team so they can relocate it . . . completing the circle of expaning the NBA into OKC and ridding itself of the prior ownership . . . with the then-made-temporary pain of NBA fans in Seattle as a garnish.
I really do think that the NBA not only wants the team to be in New Orleans . . . at least the commissioner . . . but I think they have are going down an even more lucrative path than flipping this team for a $150m profit.
By taking a franchise like this . . . smallest NBA DMA, no deep roots laid down, financial troubles . . . and helping to get games broadcast on the north shore, getting the season tickets up to the 9,000 level, and adding at least $4m annually in sponsorship . . . the latter two partially during the lockout in which they can’t use player images, etc. . . . has to be making some owners look twice.
How can such a franchise be made to run this way?
Was the potential always there?
Yes, my friends, it was.
I think the NBA turning the financial state of this franchise around in a year sends a powerful message to the NBA owners. It quietly puts a spotlight on each and every unprofitable owner. “We did this in a year, and you haven’t done it in 20,” or whatever. I’m sure it’s different for every owner.
Beyond that, though, it shows them how to do it. We would be acting as a model home in small subdivison early in development. Picture this . . . It can be yours . . .
Teams can’t just share their tactics outright . . . they can’t just pass a contract that worked really well in state X with sponsor A over to state Y for a team to use with sponsor B, or even sponsor A . . . but they can look at the methods.
The Hornets get some backlash for leveraging relocation to get a deal, but this is way business is done. Most teams pull this out of their attache cases during most negotiations. I say do what you need to do to keep me in my seat watching my team.
If the NBA can use us a model to save the rest of the NBA teams . . . NBA FANS! . . . then use us, I say.