Share “Hornets' deal gives OKC more options”

Darnell Mayberry Modified: January 14, 2008 at 6:28 pm •  Published: January 14, 2008

/> •Hornets make the attendance benchmark and remain in New Orleans.

Not many signs point toward the Hornets averaging 15,000-plus fans over the next 1½ years to bump their already trailing attendance to the needed figure. Sustained on-court success, however, and a nice showing in the playoffs this year could create a spike in next season's crowd flow.

•Hornets miss the attendance benchmark and return to Oklahoma for the 2009-10 season.

Considering the Sonics' cloudy court case, this scenario isn't far-fetched. What's unclear is how will the NBA act if the Board of Governors approves the Sonics relocation to Oklahoma City but the courts then rule they must stay in Seattle until 2010? Shinn also would have to pay up to $100 million to move from New Orleans.

•Hornets miss the attendance benchmark and move to Kansas City for the 2009-10 season.

K.C. has to be a more likely destination for the Hornets than Oklahoma City considering the Sonics' state of affairs. And the move would make sense since the shiny new Sprint Center is waiting on its first major tenant.

•Hornets miss the attendance benchmark, move to Seattle for the 2009-10 season and the Sonics move to Oklahoma for the same season.

The Sonics could call Oklahoma City home in time for the 2009-10 season if their trial isn't expedited but they receive a favorable ruling from the judge. It's unlikely, however, that Hornets owner George Shinn moves to Seattle and settles for the NBA's worst venue.

•Hornets miss the attendance benchmark and Shinn sells the franchise to Bennett and Co. who then move it to OKC.

Shinn is adamant about retaining his franchise, so he doesn't figure to sell anytime soon. And it doesn't appear that he's losing cash by the minute as some predicted he would in New Orleans, which means he might not be forced to sell.

•Sonics stay in Seattle. Hornets stay in New Orleans. Las Vegas and Oklahoma City are awarded expansion franchises.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has acknowledged that he's not interested in expansion at this point. Not in this country anyway. But Las Vegas is on the NBA's radar, as evidenced by its hosting of last year's All-Star Game. It figures to be only a matter of time before both cities host permanent NBA teams. Why not through expansion?

Hornets owner George Shinn now has an opt-out clause in his New Orleans lease. By NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN archive

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