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42 Seconds: Serendipity

Published: October 31, 2011

I’ve rarely been falsely accused of being upbeat, optimistic, etc. I’ve believed something good was going to happen because I didn’t have enough information, but that’s not the same thing.

Of late, however, I seem to have a spring in my step, at least compared to the people I converse with about the NBA, or, specifically, the New Orleans Hornets.

The reasons for this a numerous, but the better part of it is a slightly different perspective.

For one, I have a clearly defined priority: I want an NBA team in New Orleans. Every single other thing about the team takes a backseat.

Star players? Backseat.

Title? Backseat.

Branding? Backseat, on the hump.

Recognition around the NBA? Trunk.

This burger seems to be cooking just fine. We’ve got multiple potential local owners; have avoided hurricanes, attacks from the killer ooze, time-traveling Viking hoards, and whatever scares people about the Higgs boson; have a season ticket base is almost 9,400 and climbing, with last 1,000 tickets added during the lockout.

This all sounds fine and dandy . . . almost to the point where I just picked the `easy’ thing to root for.


No no.

It’s taken lots of work, pain, and time to get us here. That’s all been well-documented. A skosh of luck was in there, as well. Let’s review the good parts of the lucky bits . . . the serendipity.

Starting from a beginning, we needed the team to be available. Sadly for Charlotte, one was. They got an expansion team shortly thereafter and don’t seem too upset today, but I’m still going to put this down in the pain category.

After rallying around efforts to bring the team here for the 2002-2003 season, we had an average attendance of 14,735 before Katrina hit.

Katrina . . . pain column.

Also pre-Katrina was the coaching turnover leading to the trading of Baron Davis. The resulting header the Hornets took onto the pavement of the NBA standings led to the ability to draft Chris Paul. We said “yes” to that, for those who are just tuning in. How you doin’?


Here’s where were get all Tarantino on you.

Going back to the beginning we chose, the team signed a 10-year lease with the New Orleans Arena. That lease, if not amended, would be in its final year as I type this. That’s right: The lease for the ownerless team would be expiring during what may end up being a season lost to a lockout.

The lease was amended, however.

Why? Katrina.

When? Upon the return of the team after a two-year stay in Oklahoma City (whose arena is run by SMG, by the way).

How so? Two years was added to the lease, making it expire after the 2013-2014 season, and the state was relieved of a commitment to build the team a practice facility in exchange for subsidies tied to revenue benchmarks and a series of low cost opt-out clauses trigged by attendance benchmarks set by the 14,735 average attendance before Katrina.

These benchmarks have been the subject of much discussion. This is partially due to attendance drives to keep the two-year average attendance above the three-year pre-Katrina attendance . . . which is fine in my book since the analytical structure of the benchmark is loaded against the fans . . . a more volatile two-year average has to exceed a more stable three-year average each and every year . . . c’mon . . . half the time, not every time . . . and with two-thirds of the population . . . quite an achievement, even if most people can’t see that to be so . . . plus that three-year average was influenced by the initial attendance drive to bring the team here . . . all’s fair . . .

I always go off on that since it just offends my inner and outer mathematician . . .

At any rate, those hated benchmarks are the price we paid for not having the team moored here for two years beyond the schedule conclusion of the season we are starting to miss.

Were they worth it? I don’t know.

Were they part of some genius plan? No.


The post-Katrina sports plan was to bring the Saints back after one year, then to bring the Hornets back the following year. The Saints have been sold out since their return partly due to a resurgent civic pride and partly due to the team’s success.

The thirst for successful sports turned to the Hornets in January 2008 after the Saints season ended in a regular fashion while the Hornets were blowing teams away like sugar off a beignet. The resulting surge in attendance neutered the benchmarks until recently. It also proved that New Orleans could sell out Saints games while keeping over 10,000 Hornets season tickets in circulation.

Thus, when the sale of the team was in jeopardy, there was no question that this city can and will support the franchise.


The market that hosted the Hornets for 2 years received their very own franchise soon after the Hornets returned . . . from Seattle. More pain.

The backlash from this was titanic, and a good bit of it hit Stern squarely in the face. Hard.

This was not Stern’s rodeo, though. He was involved in a number of relocations, but one of the first was with the Jazz leaving New Orleans. He wasn’t commissioner then, of course, but he was to try to keep the team here. When that proved impossible, he facilitated the move. Thus, he was involved with two teams leaving the city (Jazz and Hornets) and two teams coming to the city (Hornets twice), plus the most recent relocation was tied to the Hornets going to and coming from Oklahoma City.

Does Stern have a heart behind that litigious sternum?

Does he just love the city and what it can do for the NBA?



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