The NBA has not yet determined whether special considerations toward keeping the Hornets in New Orleans will be a part of the league's sale of the franchise after Monday's announced takover of the team.
Commissioner David Stern said relocation would have been a "certainty" had the NBA not stepped in and bought the team for $300 million from longtime owner George Shinn. The NBA announced the purchase and takeover Monday, and expects the league's other 29 owners to approve a purchase price in excess of $300 million within days.
Stern said he feels the Hornets, who were once expected to be sold to Louisiana businessman Gary Chouest, have not really been shopped in New Orleans. The league has not determined whether local ownership bids will be graded differently than those from out of town, but Stern said the NBA will consider viability issues in New Orleans before moving forward.
"We have the luxury of time here," Stern said on a Monday conference call.
A particular sticking point will be the NBA's relationship with the state of Louisiana. Stern intoned that the NBA would like to see the Hornets receive financial assistance from the state on par with what the New Orleans Saints currently receive.
Regardless of whether the team sells to a New Orleans investor or one from outside the Bayou, Stern said he's confident the NBA will turn a profit on the franchise's eventual sale.
"We think it's a very good investment for the league," Stern said.
There is currently no timeline for the sale, and the commissioner said the ownership issue may not be resolved until after the NBA and its player union resolves collective bargaining issues. The current bargaining agreement expires at the end of June 2011, and most believe an NBA lockout is certain. Chouest, in fact, cited the specter of a lockout as one of his reasons for withdrawing his bid for the Hornets.
A leadership team headed by former Minnesota Wild general manager and vice chairman Jac Sperling and current Hornets president Hugh Weber will maintain control of the franchise. Stern said he will lean on Shinn and Chouest as advisers, and leave operations -- basketball and otherwise -- to Weber's group.
Shinn initially presented the idea of a league purchase of the Hornets to Stern once Chouest's bid lost steam. The commissioner said he asked for and received permission to move forward with a purchase from the other 29 owners in October.