After all that was said and written about the Hornets’ temporary stay in OKC and their return to New Orleans, the team enters their fifth home game tonight against Orlando ranking last in the league in attendance. The announced paid attendance average is 12,151. The actual butts in the seats have been said to be much fewer.
The Times-Picayune tackled the attendance’s diminutive digits in today’s paper. George Shinn is quoted as saying, “There is no way we are going to survive without support.” A few weeks back, columnist John DeShazier called out the fans. In two separate columns.
Here’s DeShazier telling it like it is in this column: “It shouldn’t be that the lack of an opening-night sellout partly is attributed to the game falling on Halloween. Or that the kind of crowd that should have been prevalent when the Hornets went 18-64 in 2004-05, fewer than 9,900, showed up for the second home game this season, the limp excuse being that prep football ruled that Friday night. Those would be viable pitches only if New Orleans was the sole NBA city that observes Halloween, or if the bulk of prep football is played on Thursdays everywhere except here. Otherwise, it seems that attempting to produce a lame excuse is preferable to the truth, which is that New Orleans has been a pitiful excuse for an NBA town for the first week and a half of the season.”
And here’s DeShazier telling it like it is in this column: “And if this is the way the Hornets are going to be greeted and treated after a two-year stint in Oklahoma City, then it’s disingenuously hollow that we behaved as if talk of their possible relocation to OKC was a form of treason that should have been punishable by public flogging. If New Orleans is, indeed, an NBA city, it’s past time we stopped flapping gums about how much we love the game and started buying tickets, time we stopped reflecting on what was or wasn’t said and worn on jerseys and patches when the team was in OKC and started acting like this is a team that likely will win 45 games and reach the playoffs.”
Other reading material on the subject comes from some New Orleans television sports anchor. Other than calling this state’s newspapers “silly little newspapers,” he’s astute enough to reason that the city is blowing its chance of keeping the NBA. You can read about it here: “Right now I feel queasy going to Hornets games because the crowds are embarrassing New Orleans…If the Hornets ever leave or threaten to leave New Orleans (and if the attendance stays the way it does it’s only a matter of time before that happens) it’s bad for not only our image, but for recovery and rebuilding.”
Mike Kahn, a contributor to FOX Sports, chimes in here. He praises the team’s franchise-best 9-2 start, but raises the question, “What happens this season when the Hornets fall into an inevitable swoon? And if injuries mount again, causing the team to slide out of playoff contention, the attendance at games will be impossible to fathom.”
Here’s the team’s paid attendance numbers heading into tonight’s game.
Oct. 31 — Sacramento — 15,188
Nov. 2 — Portland — 9,817
Nov. 9 — San Antonio — 15,297
Nov. 14 — Philadelphia — 8,302
I’m on record of saying attendance doesn’t figure to improve anytime soon simply because of the schedule. The Hornets play hosts to Orlando tonight, a good team but one casual fans won’t come out and see despite the talents of Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis. Then its Indiana on Wednesday and Minnesota next Monday. Neither is a good team. The early portion of the December schedule brings Dallas, Detroit, Memphis and Seattle. Ordinarily, the Mavs would draw a good crowd. But that’s SEC Championship night in Atlanta. Good luck with that. And few people circle Detroit, Memphis and Seattle on the schedule when choosing games they want to see. We’ll likely be hearing a lot more about the team’s attendance over the next five months.