Like everyone else in America, the New Orleans Hornets are broke -- and their brokeness is going to revive talk of the NBA returning to Kansas City.
Hornets owner George Shinn is too cash-strapped to run the team and can't find a suitable buyer, ESPN reported on Sunday. So the NBA, for the first time in league history, is on the verge of buying the team and trying to sell it off. And while the league prefers to keep the team in New Orleans, its first priority will be finding the best owner possible -- even if that owner wants to move the team.
Further fueling speculation that the Hornets could move is their paltry attendance, which -- despite a surprising an 11-1 start and one of the league's best point guards -- is on pace to be so low that a new owner could break the team's lease with the city
So: If the league can't find an owner who will keep it in New Orleans, where would the team move? League sources told ESPN that Seattle, Kansas City and Anaheim are the most attractive cities to the league; Las Vegas, once a favorite to land a team, is no longer high on the list, the sources said.
For local NBA fans, it's an exciting turn of events. But it's hard not to be pessimistic.
Yes, we have an NBA-ready arena -- probably the best of the three cities mentioned -- and while we're smaller than Orange County and Seattle, there's way less competition for the public's entertainment dollars here than in those cities.
But we're still left with what we'll call the Maloof Principle. When speculation surfaced that the Sacramento Kings might look to move, the Maloof Brothers, who own the Kings, immediately squashed the idea of moving the franchise back to Kansas City for one simple reason: They didn't want to go to Kansas City. (Hey, they live in Vegas; they're obviously weird.)
Unless I'm missing something -- it's been known to happen, so chime in if I am -- bringing a team here will require someone really rich wanting to run a business in Kansas City rather than Seattle, the OC, or other cities that might make a play, like San Jose and Vegas.
They may have exactly that scenario in Seattle, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently sold off $1.4 billion in stock and is apparently keen on bringing pro ball back to Seattle. Here? Not so much. So unless there's some local rich guy with a secret NBA fetish -- anybody have a Kauffman in their weekly pick-up game? -- it seems unlikely a new NBA owner would invest in an NBA team with the intend on moving it into the Sprint Center.