When it was announced that the Hornets were re-energizing their I’m In marketing campaign it was met with a pledge to get a local buyer to step up. This raised frustration with many Hornets fans because most feel like to much is being asked of them. In most respects this is true. Hornets fans have stepped up time and time again, only to have management dangle more goals and more promises. In a way, it’s like your parents telling you at Christmas that you would get that kick ass toy you’ve wanted. Then you didn’t get it and your parents said you had to be good until next Christmas. That time comes and yet again they say, “Look be good for another year and we’ll get it for Christmas.”
It’s not the same, but it sure does feel like that.
What complicates this whole ordeal is the CBA. We know that the Hornets and the NBA have been trying to wipe the debt that George Shinn left, but no deal will get done, so long as there is a lockout or bargaining negotiations going on.
The reason for this is quite simple. Stern appears to be “hands off” in negotiations, letting Adam Silver and Owners hammer it out. Ken Burger of CBS speculates that it’s only a matter of time before Stern has to intervene to speed up the process.
So while it might have been helpful for the players to propose something more substantive than adding another mid-level exception and awarding more draft picks to poorly performing teams, the idea that the onus is on the players to end this negotiating impasse is farcical. The onus should be on Stern to unite his two factions of owners, whose vastly different priorities and perspectives have thus far made a reasonable common ground impossible to achieve.
Stern’s attention will be firmly directed towards this CBA. They’ve already cancelled the Summer League and the deadline for “significant progress” to be made is Friday. In a way it’s all pointing towards a lockout, and there’s no way the NBA logistically gets the frame work done in time for any owner to step up (unless someone with 70 billion dollars steps up…).
What’s even worse is that Chris Paul himself appears to be aiding the players argument for a CBA that favours big market teams. It’s like a slap across the face because why would Paul favour a CBA that was less competitive for all teams and didn’t allow the Hornets to build a championship caliber team needed to keep him. But that’s discussion for another day.
Who, When and How Does a Local Owner Step Up?
The “Who” (aside from being a rockband) is Gary Chouest and a local ownership group led by Morris Bart. I still believe that these guys are waiting on the sidelines for this CBA to get hammered out and for financial objectives to be achieved.
As for the “When” it is most likely that this will take some time before things are on course for any kind of sale. When the CBA is renewed, whenever that is, if there isn’t an ownership transfer to local buyers within 2 or 3 months of that, then we are in some serious trouble. Heck, I’m not even saying a deal has to get done, just murmurs or news that a deal is being formulated within 2-3 months of a renewed CBA is what needs to happen. If it doesn’t then I’d expect the NBA to seriously move on from New Orleans.
Finally, the “How?” As we’ve discussed before there are several things that have to happen in order for a local owner to step up. Call it a checklist if you will for a business plan:
- Corrected financial issues related to debt
- Draw up a fiscally responsible budget
- Reach attendance bench-marks
- Reach season ticket holder marks with the “I’m In” campaign (currently just over 8,000) to reach 10,000
- Secure business investors and sponsors
- Open up the TV Market to Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas
- Secure a long term, renewed relationship and lease with the State of Louisiana
The CBA Itself
Many have tried to guess what the next CBA will look like. There is little doubt that it will favour the owners much more. Whether that be in the form of a even revenue sharing program (a 50/50 split between players and owners) or a hard-cap. One thing is for sure that the next CBA will look quite different to this one because owners feel like owning teams is now more about losing money than it is about making money.
Chouest or any owners for that matter, will not invest in an NBA team if they don’t feel like they can return a profit. Other businessmen to step up and buy teams have done so for pure sentimental reasons because they’ve had the capacity to do so. But Chouest will not, he needs to make it a profitable venture in New Orleans as capital will be limited. So the CBA hopefully can provide a structure that allows him to aggressively build a championship team on level terms.
Look, nothing is certain. There’s still a lot of things that have to happen before we even start getting excited about any owner buying the team. The NBA will be focussed on the CBA and let Jac Sperling run things.
To me Chouest needs to be seriously considered as the likely candidate to buy the team. This talk of “Oh the Hornets aren’t going to be in New Orleans” has less factual evidence than Chouest stepping up. It’s much more plausible to think that he is waiting in the wings for his oppotunity to own the NBA franchise and keep it in New Orleans.
Whatever the case fans need to make one final effort and buy season tickets. I know it’s another jab, another prod, something that’s suffering from social fatigue, but it has to be done. If it is done then there’s no way the NBA gets out of New Orleans without looking like complete and utter douchebags which would be one of the biggest “scandal” in NBA history.