The New Orleans Hornets are set to become the first franchise in NBA history to be owned by the league, said reports.
According to the Associated Press, the team’s owner George Shinn has agreed to sell the club to the NBA, and it could be finalized within a couple days.
Sources told ESPN.com that the NBA’s plans to take temporary control of the Hornets are “100 percent” confirmed, and will be announced once the deal is done. The sports network also says the move is likely to mirror what Major League Baseball did with the Montreal Expos, before that franchise was sold and moved to the nation’s capital as the Washington Nationals.
While the league has has lined up New Orleans-born sports attorney Jac Sperling, vice chairman of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, to be the NBA’s administrator of the team and oversee its sale to a more permanent owner, current Hornets President Hugh Weber will continue overseeing day-to-day operations.
Apparently, attendance at Hornets’ home games have been quite lower than expected, despite an over .500 record of 13-7 record. Through 10 home games this season, the average attendance has been 13,865.
If the numbers don’t improve, the Hornets could have the right to break their lease at the New Orleans Arena after this season. The lease does run through 2014, but the team is allowed to break it if average attendance falls below 14,735 during a two-year period.
First-year Hornets coach, Monty Williams told the AP before Sunday night’s loss to the San Antonio Sputs that he had talked to players about the potential sale, but insisted it wouldn’t be a distraction during the season.
Williams, however, admitted that he didn’t know the details behind the sale.
“I’ve heard speculation since I’ve been in New Orleans,” Williams said. “It’s not news to me.”
The sale comes after long-stalled sale of the Hornets from owner George Shinn to minority partner Gary Chouest collapsed for good in recent days. From there, NBA officials moved forward with their proposal to purchase operational control of the team.
The NBA reportedly felt the need to take over because Shinn can no longer afford to run the team, but also can’t find a buyer.
69-year-old Shinn was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, but was treated successfully. After the health scare, he decided to move on from NBA ownership and instead focus on his faith and on charitable efforts to promote the fight against cancer.
The Hornets roster boasts NBA All-Star Chris Paul, former Laker Trevor Ariza, All-Star David West, and Emeka Okafor, among others.