Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The other professional franchise in N.O.... 

... is undefeated, and currently boasts the best record in the NBA (4-0). The Hornets also boast the league's assist/gm leader and are going for their third straight road win. Last night, the streaky team thrilled fans with record-breaking performances by Stojakovic, who set the team record for 3 pointers, and by budding superstar CP3, who set the team record for most assists.

On Friday, the New Orleans Hornets will host the San Antonio Spurs (the reigning NBA Champions). Hopefully, the Arena will sell out-- though that's not a given. I believe that the Hornets will be an excellent sports product regularly on display here in New Orleans, where basketball fans enjoy the most affordable ticket prices in the entire league.

I'm not an apologist for the current ownership-- after all, George Shinn's most ferocious critic is my hook-up for Saints tix-- but in the interest of quasi-fairness, I'll liberally copy some statements owner Shinn recently made to CityBusiness which, if true, are not entirely mooktacular.

“We have a lease that will keep us here for five years,” Shinn said. “What I envision in my mind is I see us succeeding. I see us making it. We’re willing to work it out and stay even longer.”
Returning wasn’t an easy business decision to make. OKC fans filled the seats and created a lot of excitement and profit. But the bottom line was outweighed by other Shinn concerns.

Returning [from Oklahoma City after Katrina] wasn’t an easy business decision to make. OKC fans filled the seats and created a lot of excitement and profit. But the bottom line was outweighed by other Shinn concerns.

“At this stage in my life there’s a whole lot more important things to me than making money" [Shinn] said. "New Orleans is suffering. My wife and me prayed about this thing. ... If it fails, it fails. But I don’t think it’s going to fail. We’ll give it a shot. We followed our own intuition, our own feelings and faith. [Coming back] was the right thing to do.”
Not everyone wanted to return, Shinn said. He fired former team president Paul Mott for lobbying a little too vigorously to stay in Oklahoma City.

“I had a lot of people working for me that were hell bent on keeping the team in Oklahoma City,” Shinn said. “One was the president at the time. I just got to the point I had to fire him. I told him, ‘You’re not going to make this decision. I am. You’re going to have to quit pestering me.’ He kept badgering me and telling me I was stupid. Finally it was time for us to part.”

Despite the ownership commitment, too many empty seats at the New Orleans Arena will make it tough to keep the team here beyond 2011.

“It is a business but it’s not a nonprofit business,” Shinn said. “We have to make revenue to survive. The salaries you have to pay professional athletes are just crazy.”
The Hornets do mean big business.

“What it means economically to retain the Hornets is twofold,” said attorney Bill Hines, a key player in the city’s drive to land the franchise when it left Charlotte, N.C., in 2002. “One is the actual ... amount of income that having an NBA franchise generates within the city in terms of vendors, restaurant, direct impact items on the economy that are very similar to the Saints situation.”

Hines also said the Hornets and the NBA have become international currency in terms of entry into foreign markets. He told a story about a delegation from the Port of New Orleans on a business trip to China.

“The first thing the Chinese delegation said was ‘Hornets, Hornets, you have the Hornets.’ They, of course, are into the whole Yao Ming thing,” Hines said. “If we do this right, then this is the huge opportunity to really develop business out of this.”

A fast start with a lot of home victories would help endear the Hornets to their estranged fan base.

Let's hope so. Even if Shinn leaves the door wide open for a future move in 5 years, is that any better than Benson? I think that this scrappy, dangerous Hornets team is worthy of our city's full support, and our support will increase their chances of staying long-term.

Unlike the Saints this year, the Hornets must truly "earn" their way into the playoffs, because they play in the NBA's toughest division. They need all the help they can get. And you can see them live for less than the price of a Bloody Mary at a Saints game.

Full disclosure: Perhaps I'm naively unaware of his dark side, but I'm a fan of Bill Hines. Feel free to disabuse me in the comments.


11 comments DiggIt!


That's a fairly rosy assessment of Mr. Hines. From that article, he's a great civic leader.

I just wonder who he has represented during his time as a lawyer.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:24 PM  

It's okay to like Hines. I just wanted to get that in before the inevitable blast from the yellowblogging librarian.

P.S. It's okay to like Reggie Bush too. There. That oughtta set him off.

By Blogger Mr. Clio, at 6:09 PM  

Shinn always says the right things to the appropriate audience. Let a Seattle paper interview him and see what the mook's tune is.

By Anonymous ashley, at 7:36 PM  

Thank you!!! Frankly I'm sick of people dissing the Hornets for a lack of dedication to the city, when the city shows little to no dedication to them. When it comes down to it, the Hornets are a business, and I won't hold it against them for moving if NOLA can't, or won't, support that business. I'm also tired of people ready and willing to tell them good riddance when the last thing the city needs is more professional blood letting. I don't really like pro-basketball, but I love anything that generates jobs in New Orleans, and I'd love for them to stay.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM  

I like basketball. But the Hornets, in my mind, represent everything that is rotten and soulless in the current professional sports landscape.

I understand why those among us with a tendency towards civic boosterism may be willing to put up with them but I just can't.

By Blogger jeffrey, at 10:36 AM  

That should read "symbolic civic boosterism" since the line about professional sports franchises as beneficial economic engines is a widely discredited myth.

By Blogger jeffrey, at 10:38 AM  

I hear ya Jeffrey but you're missing out on some great basketball. The Hornets have a lot of really likable players (mo pete, paul, chandler) and they're going to go to the playoffs because they play hard.

Also the Tulane Green Wave Men's Bball team is going to shock CUSA by making the NIT this year mark my words.

By Blogger E, at 10:41 AM  

So the idea that money I am spending on Hornets tickets would be spent at Disney world instead is a flawed one?

Don't get me wrong, im sure the economic benefit of having a sports team is probably overstated. However, Im sure that a benefit does exist and some of that benefit is not tangible.

And losing a business, well, that would definitely harm our city.

I am also unsure as to how the Hornets represent everything that is wrong in professional sports. Perhaps you could explain that some more.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 10:44 AM  

I like the Hornets--even went to a playoff game a couple of years back--and basketball in general (when I was a kid my dad used to take us to ABA games in Virginia...ah, the good old days: big hair, short uniforms, and Converse Chuck Taylors)...

But Shinn has or had some people working on the business side who were genuine first-class assholes. One of the Charlotte transplants dated a friend of my sister's. During that year's Jazz Fest (no pun intended) Chase (I think that was his name) was as obnoxious as I expect Shrub was back in HIS frat-boy days--he tried to trash the place where we were house-sitting, he rifled through the home-owner's personal stuff...and probably was the one who stole about $30 I had sitting on an end table.

If that's the sort of person whom Shinn would hire, you've gotta wonder...

By Blogger Michael, at 11:58 AM  

I'm not saying that Shinn himself is a paragon of virture... I don't know him so I really don't know either way. However, even if he is "that bad", I don't know how that makes the Hornets an example of all that is wrong in sports.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 2:43 PM  

Well to begin with, this franchise is only in New Orleans as part of an effort to extort the city of Charlotte for an another unnecessary dip into the public coffers.

(The NBA eventually got Charlotte to fall in line after the Hornets skipped town)

Professional sports teams exemplify the worst kind of corporate welfare as teams turn publicly financed facilities... and in some cases... out and out cash subsidies into massive profits which depend upon marketing the illusion that these self-described "private businesses" somehow metaphorically represent the spirit of the very cities they are constantly threatening with further extortion.

The Hornets did this to Charlotte... and thought long and hard about doing it to a flood-staggered New Orleans before deciding it was better PR to wait a year or so first.

Meanwhile the NBA product is, in general, one of the more corporate-geared tickets in sports these days; far more exclusive of the working-class fan whose attention it still demands at least for the sake of TV ratings.

The NBA is the worst of the classist, hypocritical major sports leagues and the Hornets are perhaps its nastiest franchise in these regards.

Oyster's point about the Hornets' affordable tickets (relative to the rest of the league) is less evidence of the organization's big heart as much as it is an indicator of their understanding that New Orleans is not a market they will want to fool with much longer.

By Blogger jeffrey, at 3:47 PM