It comes down to this: owner George Shinn is out of money he will spend to run the New Orleans Hornets and he can’t find a buyer.
The league is going to step in and step in soon — both ESPN and Sports Illustrated are reporting the league could take over operations of the team in the next 48 hours. ESPN’s Marc Stein added it will be by Wednesday at the latest. We told you earlier today the league has found its man to run the team, so everything seems to be in place.
The move by the league was necessitated by the collapse of talks between Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest to buy the team. Back in October at a Board of Governor’s meeting the idea of the league taking over the franchise was first discussed with the other owners.
This move by the league raises as many questions as it answers.
Certainly the league will try to find owners to keep the team in New Orleans, that will get a lot of lip service from David Stern and everyone involved. But what if the highest bidder comes in and wants to move the team? Attendance is reaching a point where the Hornets could break their lease with the state-run New Orleans Arena. And New Orleans is one of the smallest of the current NBA markets.
Could this be a Seattle situation all over again, where an owner gives lip service to keeping a team in town then moves it out as fast as possible?
Secondly, what about Chris Paul? This summer he pushed the Hornets to either get better or trade him. They have gotten a little better just due to health and some inexpensive but smart moves. But will they be able to bring in the big moves that will keep Paul, who can be a free agent in 2012? Will the league — meaning the other owners — approve big moves like trading Peja Stojakovic and taking on more salary there to improve the team?
The only thing we know for sure is the league is stepping in and stepping in fast.