SEATTLE – The NBA has purchased the New Orleans Hornets, in an unprecedented move, and immediately renewed talk about a franchise in Seattle.
The league made the move, after spending months attempting to find a new owner for the team, which is struggling in attendance. The franchise could potentially opt out of its lease at the New Orleans Arena if it falls below certain gate figures.
The NBA says its goal is to find a local owner for the Hornets.
However, the move has again sparked suggestions that the league is trying to find a way back to Seattle.
A Facebook page has already been established to “Bring the New Orleans Hornets to Seattle.”
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a long time basketball fan, recently sold more than a billion dollars in stock. Fans have suggested it was a sign Ballmer would make a move for a team. He declined comment on the Hornets sale through a spokesperson today.
His business associate, Matt Griffin, who worked with Ballmer on a Key Arena remodel, said Monday “Nothing was in the works.”
Hornets coach Monty Williams told reporters after practice today, he wanted to stay in Louisiana, but “Business is gonna do what it do. You know sometimes you can’t control that but we certainly want to keep the team here.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern also reiterated today his hope to keep the Hornets in New Orleans, but was asked about the potential to move the team to Seattle, Kansas City or Anaheim:
“I think in fairness, any purchase outside of New Orleans in the long run would involve the potential of a relocation fee, or at least a valuation of the franchise based upon a relocation fee. But we didn't want to get into that now. And so I think the best thing we can do is do this and let everyone who doesn't know what our e mail address is to know it and then we can receive such expressions of interest over time. But I think that anything that came in earlier than the early part of next year would be premature.”
The Hornets moved to New Orleans, from Charlotte, in 2002. They played briefly in Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina. Seattle’s Sonics franchise moved to the Sooner State in 2008.