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mjf150 01-31-2006 07:45 AM

Maybe the next year, or the year after that?
Report: Hornets likely in Oklahoma City next season

January 28, 2006
NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) - The displaced New Orleans Hornets likely will remain in Oklahoma City for another season before returning for the 2007-08 campaign, according to a published report.

Saturday's editions of the New Orleans Times-Picayune cited unidentified league sources that said the Hornets - who were forced to move due to the damage of Hurricane Katrina - would play a handful of games in the Crescent City next season.

NBA commissioner David Stern has said a decision on the Hornets needed to be made by February due to the need to sell season-ticket packages. He is expected to announce an official decision later this week.

Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett told the Times-Picayune that his city has not been involved in any negotiations with the Hornets regarding next season and has not heard from the league regarding its decision.

"If this team is going to return to Oklahoma City next season, it needs to be because the city of New Orleans is not yet ready," Cornett said. "We have not been negotiating for next year, and it wouldn't be appropriate to do so until they determine that they cannot play in New Orleans. And I haven't heard that word yet."

The report cited the source as saying that six to eight Hornets games would be played in New Orleans during the 2006-07 season.

Hornets officials initially were hopeful that next season's slate could be evenly split between Oklahoma City and New Orleans but earlier this week said that likely would not be possible because it would force the team to keep employees in both cities.

Hornets owner George Shinn, who moved the team from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans after the 2001-02 season, repeatedly has said that he wants to return the Hornets to the Crescent City but wants the city to be able to support the team.

The Hornets are drawing much better in Oklahoma City than they did in New Orleans. Last season, they were last in the NBA in attendance, averaging 14,221 per game in New Orleans Arena.

Playing in the 19,500-seat Ford Center, the Hornets are 11th in the NBA in attendance this season, averaging 17,641 per game. That norm includes a crowd of 7,302 for one game the team played in the Maravich Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

The Hornets will play three games at New Orleans Arena this season. Those will be the first pro sports events in New Orleans since the hurricane.

There also are issues regarding teams sponsorships and partnerships with local business partners, which right now appear to be stronger in Oklahoma City than New Orleans, according to the report.

Updated on Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 7:38 pm EST;_yl...v=st&type=lgns

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