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Students keep up hope in Hornets

By HASANI GRAYSON
On January 13, 2011

  • From left, New Orleans Hornets’ Emeka Okafor, Marcus Thornton, Chris Paul and Pops Mensh-Bonsu sit on the bench during a home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The game drew 18,018 fans, raising the Hornets’ average close to their goal of 14,309 per game. The current average is 14,085 fans per game. Sean Gardner/AP Photo
  • From left, New Orleans Hornets’ Emeka Okafor, Marcus Thornton, Chris Paul and Pops Mensh-Bonsu sit on the bench during a home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The game drew 18,018 fans, raising the Hornets’ average close to their goal of 14,309 per game. The current average is 14,085 fans per game. Sean Gardner/AP Photo

While fans in the New Orleans community grow more concerned with the struggling Hornets, the Hornets fans in the Loyola community are also becoming increasingly worried about the franchise.

On Dec. 6, the NBA purchased the Hornets, who are in debt and currently struggling to meet goals for home game attendance. The acquisition of New Orleans' home team from former majority owner George Shinn cost the NBA an estimated $300 million dollars.

The sale went through despite a few other attempts to purchase the team. Local injury attorney Morris Bart was rumored to have been trying to put together a purchasing group at one point. Oracle CEO and co-founder Larry Ellison even put in an offer of $350 million dollars towards the struggling franchise, but was muscled out by the NBA.

Even though the sale of the team has caused many to speculate on the possible relocation of the franchise to another city, not all fans are panicking. General studies business sophomore Evan Thomas thinks that the NBA will be able to keep the team where it is. "I think the NBA is really sold on keeping the Hornets in New Orleans," he said "With the NBA's purchase, that definitely ensures that they are going to search for an owner that will keep the team here for the future."

Part of the reason for Thomas' optimism is because he thinks the NBA doesn't have a better market to move the team to. "When you look at some of the other available markets, they don't seem as appealing," he said. One of the places rumored to get a team has been Seattle, whose team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Thomas said he has also heard rumors of the addition of third NBA franchise to Florida, with locations like Jacksonville and Tampa being suggested.

If the Hornets are to remain in New Orleans, the franchise needs to address the problem of low attendance. In an arena that seats about 18,500 the Hornets have averaged around 14,214 for its home attendance. Due to an amendment made to the lease 2007, the Hornets would have the option of moving out of the New Orleans Arena if the team averaged less than 14,735 on the season.

Thomas, who has been to a few games this season, has seen how empty the arena can be even with the Hornets hosting a talented team. "I was at a game about a month ago and, it was a Friday night game against Oklahoma City. I was in the stands with three of my buddies and it seemed like half the arena was empty. On Friday night, you'd think more people would want to come to a game. It was just miserable." Oklahoma City has guard Kevin Durant, who is considered by many fans to be one of the best young talents in the NBA. Some may describe the atmosphere in the arena as miserable, but fans are more optimistic about the team's ability to win games. International business sophomore Alex Failla said that first-year coach Monty Williams' emphasis on defense is having a positive impact on the team. The Hornets are currently ranked third in the league in points allowed. On the other end of the court the Hornets are lacking offense, as they are the fourth worst team in scoring, averaging only 93.9 points per game. But Failla praised the front office for not being afraid to make changes to the roster. "They made some moves in the offseason and during the season to get some younger, better shooters," he said. Failla highlighted the trade the Hornets made that sent away center Peja Stojakovic to the Toronto Raptors. The Hornets would have paid Stojakovic $15.3 million for the 2010-2011 season. Failla thought that was too much money for someone who was "6'11, couldn't play defense, or rebound, or do anything productive on the court." For a team that is currently sixth in conference standings, many are still struggling to figure out why the attendance numbers have not been higher. Some have interpreted the low attendance numbers as a sign that the Hornets should relocate, but Thomas thinks New Orleans' other home team may have taken attention away from basketball. "Historically, New Orleans is a football town. The Saints come first," Thomas said. He said he thinks there will be a spike in attendance since the Saints are in their offseason. "I've always said that Hornets season doesn't start until the Saints' season ends."

Hasani Grayson can be reached at hkgrayso@loyno.edu


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