Tom Benson, you are in the club.
Not that there was much doubt the owner of the New Orleans Saints would get the okay to also become the owner of the New Orleans Hornets. In large part because he will keep the team in the Big Easy. In large part because the league really, really wanted to get out of the business of owning the team itself.
Wednesday the NBA Board of Governors — made of up the 29 NBA owners — approved the sale. Tom Benson is in. The formal sale is expected to close later this week.
Benson’s new franchise will be one to watch with soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and shooting guard Eric Gordon (who says he will test the free agent market but the Hornets will match virtually any offer). The Hornets have the foundation to evolve into a pretty good team in a few years.
How Benson runs the team will be interesting, he’s already looking for ways to merge some Saints and Hornets operations.
UPDATE 4:30 pm: Break out the beads, David Stern has made it official — the 2014 NBA All-Star Game will be in New Orleans.
“There is no better place to celebrate and showcase the NBA than in New Orleans, a city with a rich tradition of hosting major events that is second-to-none,” Stern said. “Our 2008 NBA All-Star festivities proved a terrific experience for everyone involved, and we anticipate 2014 will be even better.”
12:45 pm: Are you ready for some gumbo and hoops?
David Stern, new Hornets owner Tom Benson and a bunch of NBA brass are in New Orleans Monday to announce that the city will host the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. The Times-Picayune was the first to confirm the long-standing rumor.
Getting an All-Star game in the city was part of the lease renegotiations between the league and the state of Louisiana, which owns the New Orleans Arena. It is that new lease — which includes building upgrades and renovations — that cleared the way for the sale of the team to Tom Benson. The deal was the NBA had a decade to put an All-Star Game back in the city, but it was expected to be sooner rather than later.
New Orleans hosted the 2008 All-Star Game, the first major sporting event in the city following hurricane Katrina. The 2013 All-Star Game is in Houston. It is expected the 2015 All-Star Game will be in New York, although both the Nets with the new Barclay Center and the Knicks with a renovated Madison Square Garden want to host.
“Hornets” is not a name that fits with New Orleans.
It was a leftover from when George Shinn moved his team from Charlotte — a city nicknamed “the hornets’ nest” — but “Hornets” goes together with the spirit of New Orleans about as much as tacos go with gumbo.
New Hornets owner Tom Benson is a New Orleans native who gets the city. And you can put him on the list of people who wants a new name for the team. Tomorrow. Which is all that matters. Here is what Benson told the Times-Picayune:
“We need to find a name like (Jazz),” Benson said, referring to New Orleans first NBA team that relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979. “Whether we can get that or let us use that, you’ve got to know we’re working on it. We’d like to change it tomorrow. We have not gotten that approved, but we’re not letting up on it, either. Because we’ve got a good relationship with the commissioner and his people and we’re going to be on them daily to do something.”
At this point, Jazz is not going to happen, even though that name fits in Utah about as well as a crawfish boil. Look, Lakers fits a whole lot better in Minnesota than it does Los Angeles but they’re not giving it up either.
But there are a host of other potential names that can work and you can bet in a couple years Benson will have the Hornets called something appropriate.
And you know, that black and gold color scheme of the saints would look cool on an NBA uniform. Just sayin’.