Though NBA Commissioner David Stern has insisted that moving the team is not an option, momentum is building among the owners for the relocation of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets.
Since buying the team from majority owner George Shinn in early December, Stern and the league have been fending off rumors that the league will move the team in the next year or two because of sagging attendance in New Orleans.
Contraction has also been put on the table as an option, though unacceptable to Stern. In a podcast with ESPN's Bill Simmons, Stern divulged that some owners are in favor of contracting the moribund franchise, or at least moving it.
The news isn't all grim for local Hornets fans, however, as the team exceeded the average attendance benchmark that locks in the team's lease with New Orleans Arena and prevents it from relocating imminently. It appears that Hornets are staying in New Orleans for the near future, and that 2012 relocation or contraction will not happen.
Still, NBA owners are not excited about holding up a league-owned franchise that isn't contributing much to the revenue or public relations pie, and they will apply pressure to the league to move the team to a more desirable locale or eliminate it altogether.
Contraction is a conversation killer in this forum, but relocation is something we can get fired up talking about.
Here are 10 prime places that would preen to land an NBA franchise.
Greg Anthony and Bryant Reeves used to play in the NBA. Vancouver also used to play in the NBA, but has not since the Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001.
Vancouver, though north of the border, is among Canada's most Americanized cities as a popular tourist/vacation destination and has proximity to the state of Washington.
The NBA worked there before, so why couldn't it work again?
This location makes a lot of sense given the relocation of the Seattle franchise four years ago; Vancouver is very close to Seattle and probably has a lot of disgruntled Sonic fans. Seattle itself is one of the NBA's best cities, but is now lacking a team. It makes sense that if Seattle isn't the destination for the Hornets, Vancouver might be.
Vancouver's odds of landing the Hornets: 30 to one.
The NBA called Kansas City home for 14 seasons before, but not since the current Sacramento Kings moved in 1985.
Cotton Fitzsimmons ran the sideline while Nate "Tiny" Archibald ran the Kemper Arena court back then.
Now, the team that would arrive in Kansas City would presumably have Chris Paul running the court at the beautiful new Sprint Center.
KC is one of the country's biggest markets that doesn't have a basketball team, and its fans are starved for a team that can compete. The Blues are mediocre, the Royals are a perennial bottom dweller, and the sustainable success of the Chiefs is uncertain.
Kansas City is the No. 31 TV market in the nation, surpassed by only a handful of non-NBA markets. The city is big enough and the culture sporty enough to make this one of the NBA's most viable options.
Kansas City's odds of landing the Hornets: 10 to one.
Yes, the Second City has been in the discussion to land a, wait for it, second NBA franchise.
There may not be a huge appetite for another team in Chicago, but this is a possibility because of the city's capability to handle another team. The population and sports fever are more than enough for another NBA team, and the United Center is capable of housing another team.
The NBA cash cow would love to throw another team into the No. 3 TV market in the United States, with the team most certainly to get a big broadcast deal.
Still, there are other cities that are hungry and prepared to get a team, and those cities should be the priority for the league.
Chicago's odds of landing the Hornets: 25 to one.
The idea of putting a team in Sin City is very attractive to David Stern. The revenue, the betting, the p.r. for the league: these are all virtually untapped in Las Vegas.
There might reasons that the Vegas pro sports frontier hasn't been settled. The gambling, the distractions, the strip clubs, the heightened potential to get in trouble with the law and so much more.
No further argument about the dangers of pro athletes in Las Vegas needs to be made than the Pac-Man Jones debacle at NBA All-Star Weekend a few years ago.
Vegas has a lot of potential, but there are even more pitfalls. I'm not sure the NBA is ready to break ground in Vegas quite yet, especially in the wake of Tim Donaghy.
Las Vegas' odds of landing the Hornets: 15 to one.
Ooohhh, now the can of worms is open.
There are still a ton of hurt feelings on the part of Seattle's basketball faithful, which had its team forcefully taken away and planted in Oklahoma City.
Everyone knows that the NBA's breakup with Seattle was very ugly and that Seattle was heartbroken when it lost the Sonics. The Emerald City is a great NBA one, and it makes no sense that the league isn't there.
The vacation of Seattle wasn't about a lacking fan base or revenues, but mostly about disagreements over a deal for a new arena for the team. An ownership change ensued while those discussions were going on, and all of a sudden, the team was set to be moved.
Basketball fans in Seattle are excited by the talk of one of several teams moving back. The NBA knows it made a mistake and would undoubtedly love to get back to the city, and I'm sure the city would welcome the league back with open arms.
Seattle's odds of landing the Hornets: eight to one.
This city isn't being talked about in the relocation discussion, but I don't see why it wouldn't be.
Pittsburgh has a vigorous sports scene and rabid fan bases for the Penguins, Steelers, and Pitt basketball.
The sports infrastructure is great as well, with three state-of-the-art venues built in the last several years. The Consol Energy Center, which houses the Penguins and the NCAA Tournament, is brand new for this sports year.
An NBA team could easily move into the arena, which has a capacity of 19,000 for basketball games and state of the art amenities.
Making the switch from West to East necessitates that another team switch from the East to the West, but if the NBA thinks that Pittsburgh can be profitable, they will make the proper arrangements.
Because Pittsburgh isn't being discussed as an option, the city is more of a long shot to land the Hornets than others.
Pittsburgh's odds of landing the Hornets: 40 to one.
St. Louis has a lot in common with Kansas City in relation to the NBA. Not only are the two cities near each other geographically, but they also strong appetites for basketball to supplement the other pro sports teams in their cities.
The Scottrade Center is an experienced basketball venue, having hosted a lot of college basketball in the Midwest recently. Also, the NBA has history in the the city, which is among the most devoted to its teams of any city in the country.
The economics are strong, the marketing is strong, the fan base is strong and the facilities are strong. St. Louis would be as good a fit as any for relocation of the Hornets.
St. Louis' odds of landing the Hornets: 15 to one.
Photo by Emily Birch/Illinoisloyalty.com
No, not any of the 14 cities of Rome in the United States.
Is that the Coliseum?
Yes, that Rome.
The NBA has been itching to expand its brand all over the globe in the midst of booming popularity and viewership. The league currently has over 90 international players with a huge influx from Europe and South America.
In the past, the NBA has capitalized on the astronomical popularity of Yao Ming by staging preseason games in China that feature Yao's Rockets, which has enhanced the NBA's brand as a global one.
The NBA is inevitably headed in the overseas expansion of its operating franchises, though it remains to be seen how well it can be done because no league has dared attempt it. Basketball, however, is a game that has appeal in every corner of the map, surpassed only by soccer in world popularity.
With one team ready to move and a few more possibly on the way, why not dive headlong into the international expansion of the league? There are plenty of potential owners who are aptly bankrolled, the demand is there and the facilities are there.
The only problem is in which city to expand to. Other viable options are Paris, Athens, Barcelona, and Berlin.
Rome seems as good as any by this optimistic viewpoint.
Rome's odds of landing the Hornets (or another team soon): 200 to one.
The Bluegrass State of Kentucky is renowned for its basketball craze with the universities of Kentucky and Louisville.
The brand new KFC Yum! Center is a 22,000-seat house that needs another tenant. So far, the Louisville basketball teams are the only constant occupiers; an NBA franchise in Kentucky, a state with no professional sports teams, is a long time coming.
Whether the market and demand are big enough is probably a reason for caution, but the appetite for basketball is about as high in Kentucky as it is anywhere.
Louisville's odds of landing the Hornets: 50 to one.
It's part of the country's No. 2 population and TV market. It's had the NBA before in the existing arena. The city is more than able to support an NBA franchise without over-saturating Southern California.
Plus, it's a two-mile drive from where I reside.
This isn't the NBA's best option because its the one I'm biased towards. It's the NBA's best option for relocation because it will make the league the most money and give the relocated team the best chance to compete, hands down.
Everyone wants to play in Southern California, but it's hard to join the Lakers and nobody wants to touch the Clippers. With the Orange County Hornets, NBA players will finally their shot at playing in a nice arena in the place they always wanted to play.
Orange County is filled with wealthy people who have disposable income but only one team (the Angels) to spend it on. Without the NFL, all those fans who don't like commuting to Los Angeles will have a team to call their own, right in their own backyard.
This is a match made in hoop heaven, and I hope the NBA realizes that it makes the most sense of any candidate city for relocation.
This all comes with a disclaimer: the Sacramento Kings are disenchanted with their current situation and might be on the move. If they move, they most likely would secure the Anaheim location, which makes more sense for them than it does for the Hornets. Either way, an NBA team might be making its permanent home at home of Disney soon.
Anaheim's odds of landing the Hornets: 5 to one.