The NBA could purchase the New Orleans Hornets from owner George Shinn as a deal to sell the franchise to Louisiana businessman Gary Chouest has fallen through, according to reports by the New Orleans Times-Picayune and ESPN.com.
According to ESPN, the league would buy the franchise from Shinn and look for a permanent owner who would promise to keep the team in New Orleans for a certain span of time. Shinn had been rumored to be close to selling the franchise to Chouest, a man with deep pockets and a deep love for the game. But the Times-Picayune reports that Chouest is no longer certain he wants to own the team outright. He already as a 35-percent stake in the franchise.
Shinn has been a controversial figure in the NBA, owing to some nasty court cases and a market-crushing flight from Charlotte a decade ago. Shinn also isn't willing to spend the luxury tax to field an elite team, a source of consternation for fans who have rued the Hornets' cap-cutting ways in recent years.
Owing to abandonment of Charlotte, most expect Shinn will flee the decimated New Orleans market at first opportunity, although the team has always maintained it is committed to southern Louisiana. If certain attendance thresholds are not met, the Hornets can break their lease with New Orleans Arena and move, provided the NBA allows it.
If the NBA were to buy the Hornets from Shinn, it would be similar to Major League Baseball's handling of the Montreal Expos. The Expos were eventually sold to an ownership group in Washington, D.C.
Markets looking for an NBA team, should the league or Shinn move the team, include Seattle, Kansas City, Anaheim, San Jose and Las Vegas.