The holidays are now in the rear-view mirror, and basketball fans are back to enjoying the thrill of an NBA season.
But despite the withdrawal of speculative doubts that surrounded the league during the lockout, a gloomy cloud of uncertainty still hovers over the city of New Orleans, and the NBA owned Hornets.
Following the departure of Chris Paul, general manager Dell Demps and his front office are now in full rebuilding mode.
In a blockbuster deal that sent the four-time All-Star to the Los Angeles Clippers under the approval of Commissioner Stern, the Hornets acquired shooting guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, Center Chris Kaman and an unprotected first-round pick from the Timberwolves.
Demps said in a statement concerning the trade, “For the long-term future of the New Orleans Hornets, this is the best deal.”
Many can agree with Demps for the most part, as he worked extremely hard for a successful transaction, while constantly having his hopes bashed by the iron fist of David Stern.
As a result, they definitely avoided catastrophe as well, considering the fact that Stern at one point appeared to have permanently thwarted any possible efforts to trade Paul after vetoing the original agreement with the Lakers.
But even after working out a successful deal in the end, there still only appears to be a small handful of potential owners willing to purchase the franchise.
Now that Paul is out, the main selling point of the Hornets is the acquisition of young talent such as Eric Gordon, who will likely be the focal point of the team’s offense moving forward—if and when he finally gets healthy.
Even so, the Hornets' future in New Orleans is currently in dire straits.
Ever since previous owner George Shinn stepped down, the league has been losing millions of dollars each year to keep the organization afloat financially.
Some analysts believe the whole franchise is in jeopardy due to quiet talks of contraction that were hinted at by Commissioner Stern when first taking ownership two years ago.
That would mean completely erasing the Hornets from the NBA, and basically auctioning off the roster in a dispersal draft.
Therefore, with the increasing financial burden brought to mind, the shortened season could not have come at a better time.
With the compressed schedule now being played out, the quick pace is only helping the Hornets get through what truly is a rebuilding year—which can clearly be seen from the way they've played thus far.
And with two first-round picks quickly coming their way, the organization will be able to set their sights on draft night in hopes of adding more young talent to the team.
While acquiring a possible future star in the draft would certainly lift the Hornets back up to a competitive level—much like they did in 2005 with the addition of Chris Paul—there would still be some big issues to address.
I am an avid fan of the Hornets, but anybody who has been to New Orleans knows that football always comes first. With the 2010 super bowl victory of the Saints still lingering in the hearts and minds of every New Orlinean, the city has become an even stronger football town than ever. Therefore, it is quite agreeable that no matter how good the Hornets get, they will always be a mere second favorite in a city flowing with who dat fanaticism.
Even if the Hornets found an owner, it would be to no one’s surprise if the franchise relocated to a different market.
Possible destinations such as Seattle have been brought to mind. But if the Hornets did make the bold move to the northwest, they would be faced with the same challenges that the Supersonics dealt with before relocating to Oklahoma City. The Key Arena in Seattle needs major renovations in order to be suitable for a NBA franchise. But without the necessary funds being provided by the city to do so; it’s not a viable option.
There is certainly a lot of doubt to be had when looking at the current situation. However, one of the few bright spots that Hornets fans can at least hold onto for now, is the fact that Stern honestly wants to keep the hive in the Big Easy.
“Our sole focus was and will remain, until we sell this team, hopefully which will be in first half of 2012, how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and as competitive as we can and ensure we have a buyer who can keep them in New Orleans,” Stern said.
Unfortunately, Stern and the Hornets have ultimately failed at attaining this vision and the feelings of concern are only widening for the ball club.
But even with the early failures of the team, a small glimmer of hope might still remain.
Jamal Mashburn—who used to play for the New Orleans franchise in the latter part of his career—has been one of a very few to recently inquire on becoming the new owner.
"I can be an asset to a team as an owner, not only for my ability to scout talent, but also understand the business side of things,” Mashburn told China Daily.com in an interview. “The first all-star of the Hornets comes back to buy the team, it's going to be a great story."
Mashburn would certainly be a great fit for the job—especially since he has shown to be extremely savvy in his post-athlete career as a business man.
Yet, Mashburn is still trying to establish a group of investors to give aid monetarily, and there is no guarantee he will be able to make the purchase in the foreseeable future.
So with that point, there is no definitive answer as to where the Hornets will end up. There doesn’t seem to be an answer as to whether or not they will even exist either, with the looming possibility of contraction.
But for now, we can only sit back and watch as the Hornets organization sits on thin ice; ice that will easily be able to melt when the warm humid, bayou weather returns to New Orleans during the offseason.