The NBA finally officially confirmed Monday what had been reported for days — the league is going to take over operations of the New Orleans Hornets in the coming days.
George Shinn will sell the team to the NBA — meaning the other owners will put up the money to buy him out — then the league will find a buyer for the franchise.
“George Shinn has been an exceptional owner for New Orleans and Gary Chouest has been extraordinarily supportive as a minority owner,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a statement. “However, in light of the uncertain economic situation in New Orleans and Louisiana, Gary has decided not to move forward with the purchase of George’s majority interest although he was prepared to remain an investor in the team. In the absence of any viable purchaser seeking to own the Hornets in New Orleans, I recommended to the NBA Board of Governors that the best way to assure stability and the adequate funding of the franchise would be for the league to step in, and complete the transaction and assume control. The Hornets have a strong management team in Hugh Weber, Dell Demps, and Monty Williams and we have recruited Jac Sperling, a seasoned sports executive and New Orleans native, to be the team’s chairman and governor, with Hugh serving as president and alternate governor. I have notified Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu about this transaction and will continue our dialogue with them about ways to strengthen the franchise for new ownership in New Orleans.”
Shinn is rumored to have wanted to sell the team before Jan. 1 to avoid an estate tax issue.
He came to the NBA to buy the team because the offers he was seeing were from people wanting to move the team out of New Orleans.
“When we were unable to complete the transaction with Gary, I suggested to the Commissioner that the league consider the purchase of the Hornets,” Shinn said in a statement. ” I wanted to ensure that the team remained in New Orleans, if that was possible, and recognized that the league could provide the necessary funding while a new owner was sought in New Orleans and negotiations with the city and the state could continue.”
The league will try to find a buyer in New Orleans. But the other owners also want to get paid back, and if eventually the best offer comes from outside the area, then the Hornets will be on the move. It’s a complex issue.
But that’s down the line, what is happening on the ground. How are the players dealing with it? They told the Times-Picayune that they can’t dwell on something they have no control over.
“I really don’t know what it means,” veteran guard Willie Green said. “I know it’s definitely something that’s going on with the ownership and the league, but as a player I guess I really don’t understand or know what that means right now.
“Obviously, we’ll find out more information as time progresses, but my thinking right now is I’m just trying to make sure I focus in on the things I can control. And obviously that’s not one of them. But I’m sure we’ll find out how it impacts us as an organization and team later.”
“I’m trying to figure out how we got beat so bad by the Spurs,” Paul said after a 109-84 loss. “I control what I can control. And that’s how our team plays. I’m just trying to figure out how we can win another game.”