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Uncertainty And Hope Is The Story Of The New Orleans Hornets

Gary Chouest (right) is our savior no more

Uncertainty is a term defined as “being unsettled, in doubt or dependent on chance.” Just as a forest fire ravages the countryside unpredictably and with uncertainty so too has the New Orleans Hornets franchise for so many years.

After first being moved from Charlotte in 2002 due to owner George Shinn’s desire for a new NBA-like Arena being denied by town officials, the Hornets brand has always had that ripe juxtaposition of hope and doubt. As the team moved so too did those associations. In 2005 a devastating tragedy hit the Louisiana region as both Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. Military Engineers caused a man-made and environmental catastrophe, forcing the franchise to temporarily relocate and permanently relocate much of its fan-base. With the looming suggestions the team was too on the move, a 2007 fight-back ensued as Chris Paul led the Hornets franchise to their best campaign ever, a 56-win season. The take and give of the organisation kicked in as the 2010 offseason had the mainstream media clamouring over a possible Chris Paul departure, it was immediately quashed with an 8-0 start. But now we reach the penultimate point of uncertainty as reports came out that the NBA is considering purchasing the team as well as reports that Gary Chouest, a local Louisiana businessman, pulled out of the race for majority ownership.

It has never been a progressive, picture perfect story for the Hornets organisation. Constantly national scepticism has been met with taunt rebuttals from its fan-base and front office. Each time something went wrong, each time uncertainty loomed a fight-back would be right around the corner.

But it may be the last time there be such an occurrence.

We must be reminded at all times that with reports of the NBA’s possible purchase of the franchise that it is by no means clear and concise. We do not know for certain what is going on, as these stories often are tainted with agenda’s from third-parties.

We will however go on the assumption that something isn’t kosher on both the NBA and Hornets front-office parts.

The Evil That Is The Commissioner

David Stern the commissioner for the NBA has been nothing short of a distrusting, power driven businessman that wants maximum return of profits to his owners. The passive phrase “we all know it’s a business at the end of the day” holds particular frustration behind it. We all know it’s a business but we can’t help but feel conflicted when we so much enjoy the on-court product and dislike the off-court one. There is no doubt in my mind that if (and when) the NBA takes over the Hornets franchise that their stake hold in the Louisiana region is immediately on very shaky grounds. We all saw what happened to Seattle a fan base that was rabid and had a long history associated with it. But because Stern couldn’t get the Arena needed to generate more revenue’s he pulled out and assisted Oklahoma businessman Clayton Bennett. That is Stern’s motivation, not to help the folks in New Orleans but to help an ailing brand that has had uncertainty attached to it throughout the ages.

The Good That Was Our Supposed Saviour

Then there’s the second part to all this, Gary Chouest. For months it has been speculated that he was about to overtake Shinn as the majority owner of the ball-club leading most fans to be extremely upbeat. Most knew it would take a while for any deal to be completed due to its rather large complexity yet something didn’t seem quite right with it all. When it was suggested the sale would go through before the regular season opener it didn’t and when it was rumoured the takeover would be done before New Year’s Eve the NBA takeover claim arrived. Each time something positive happened a negative was waiting around to crush the optimism it created. Making a NBA franchise profitable within the region has always been a matter for debate, but the tough economic situation combined with the dwindling crowd sizes (and oil spill) made Chouest’s takeover all the more questionable.

The Two-Faced Front Office

With the business aspect held at bay for a moment weren’t we all led to believe something was on the horizon in terms of organisational change? Dell Demps entered bringing in honesty and open-mindedness. He even stated at one point that the ownership transfer would be completed. Then Monty Williams came in, established a no-nonsense attitude and got to work. Hubie Weber opened up communication lines with local media outlets extending his arms to the New Orleans community on any issue they had.

Was this all real and truthful?

Or was it just a marketing plan gone wrong?

While we feel like everything was done with “good intentions” you can’t help but feel the stark hypocrisy felt within it. On one hand you have the honest President and General Manager; on the other you have the looming uncertainty of an ownership transfer.

Only a number of days ago it was said by Weber himself, “We all know basketball can work here in New Orleans,” you have to wonder whether this was meaningless banter, or truthful optimism.

The Likely Sequence Of Events

To play the likely scenario of events here’s how things likely would’ve gone down leading up to this point. George Shinn is diagnosed with cancer and reassesses his ability to run an NBA franchise. In turn he seeks new majority ownership that is preferably a New Orleans native to keep the team in the city. He discusses with Gary Chouest the likelihood of him purchasing the team and they enter negotiations with the best of intentions. However they bicker about certain elements of the agreement and Chouest faces an oil spill that makes him reassess whether he can run two successful companies simultaneously. With that he decides he cannot and pulls out of the running leading Shinn to pick up the pieces. He then decides since there is little to no interest out there that he contacts the NBA on his courses of action. The NBA says that if there are no buyers that he can sell the team to them and then they can find potential owners if Shinn isn’t willing to hold on to the franchise.

If this scenario was to play out it’s likely that all things come down to what the NBA wants to do with the team. Do they want to keep basketball in New Orleans? Or do they want to move the franchise elsewhere?

It’s tough to get a grasp of anything at this point in time no one really knows what lies beyond. We’ve all seen basketball work in New Orleans before but how certain are others of that? Pinpoint David Stern’s motivations are key to this whole situation. Does he want to get the team out, or keep the team here? So many questions, not many answers. It’s time to sit, wait and brace yourself for what will be the last time we Hornet fans ever have to suffer through uncertainty.

Tags: Gary Chouest George Shinn Moving Cities NBA Takeover

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