Upon taking over the New Orleans Hornets, NBA commissioner David Stern emphasized that the team needed more help from the state of Louisiana than it had gotten in the past, and held up the Saints as the model the Hornets' subsidies should emulate.
The Saints are scheduled to receive up to $6 million a year from the state through 2025, and in last year's lease extension agreement also were guaranteed $85 million in renovations to the Superdome and tax breaks on a downtown high-rise Saints owner Tom Benson proposed.
The Hornets' current agreement, negotiated in 2008, calls on the state to pay inducements should the team not meet certain attendance benchmarks. The Hornets have apparently received those payments in every season except for 2008-09. They are believed to be in excess of $6 million a year.
The Hornets' lease runs out in 2014, and could be broken at the end of this season unless New Orleans Arena gets a lot more full than it has been over the next two months. Stern said Monday he will work with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on finding a long-term solution, assuming a local buyer is discovered, which is not an assumption anyone should make.
Gov. Jindal responded to Stern's comments on needing better state subsidies in an interview with WWL Radio in New Orleans on Tuesday.
"We've made it clear that they understand the state is facing significant financial pressures," the governor said. "We're not going to do anything that jeopardizes funding for higher education or health care."
While not quite shutting down the NBA's plea, Jindal certainly isn't ready to extend a lifeline to Stern and the Hornets. It's unclear whether Stern and the governor will ever even get to a bargaining table. Can the NBA find a potential buyer in Louisiana who will step up without stronger subsidies in place? If not, does the NBA push the state for guarantees of a lucrative long-term lease before reaching out to potential local buyers? The positioning from Stern will be interesting to watch.