David Stern recently said that the league is open to looking at contraction. All at once, everyone pretty much said, "Uh oh, New Orleans."
But he made sure to note that the Hornets are actually doing well. Local sponsorships are looking up, ticket sales are solid and a new arena deal with the state could be in the works.
And even better news: Stern might finally be able to get the team off his hands. Via the Times-Picayune:
“We have four or possibly five buyers that engaged us about the purchase of the franchise to remain in Louisiana,” said Stern, who declined to identify them. “We have said that we’re happy to continue conversations, but we need to complete all of the things we’re working on and have a better idea on where the collective bargaining agreement is going to land.”What makes that important is that while the Hornets may not actually be a prime candidate for contraction so much, they absolutely are in danger of relocating. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that there is a deal in place for the league to keep the team in New Orleans for three years, but once that time frame is up, transplanting the team wouldn't be too difficult.
At the same time, Stern could be rolling the dice with this lockout. For a lot of reasons, but one specifically with the team he owns. The Hornets are on thin ice and damaging fan support and local interest with an extended lockout would greatly hurt the team's chances of remaining in NOLA.
The league had to assume control of the team to trying and keep the value of it up. After George Shinn wanted out and with no local buyer anywhere to be found, the league purchased the team for something like $300 million. But if "four or five" local buyers are in play, that's nothing but great news for Hornets fans in New Orleans.