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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Stern reluctantly approves Charlotte move

NEW YORK (REUTERS) — As much as it pains him, NBA commissioner David Stern is close to giving his approval for the Charlotte Hornets to move to New Orleans.

Stern announced Tuesday that the Hornets have not yet met all the benchmarks set by the league, but team owners George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge have been given more time to complete the process.

Stern said work remains to be done in New Orleans before an ownership relocation committee will recommend that the move be approved.

“They’re not quite there yet, but when they get there — and I’m hoping it’s a when — I believe we’re in a position where the committee will in fact recommend it,” Stern said. “If the benchmarks are met, I would be inclined to forcefully urge the ownership to allow the team to move to New Orleans. Absolutely.”

Deputy commissioner Russ Granik said the league would like the issue to be settled by the end of the month, and Wooldridge said he was confident the team would be able to fulfill the league’s requirements by then.

Once the seven-man relocation committee issues its recommendation, a minimum of seven days must pass before the 29 teams can vote on the move.

If approved, it would be the NBA’s second franchise relocation in as many years after the league had gone 16 seasons without one. Last year, the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis.

The Hornets led the league in attendance a decade ago, but the relationship between the fans, the owners and the local politicians has soured to such a degree that the team is now last in the league in attendance.

The Hornets have been offered a lucrative relocation package by Louisiana, and it seems all but certain that the team will find out sometime during the playoffs that it is indeed moving to the Big Easy.

“This is an extraordinary disappointment,” Stern said. “Charlotte has been a great city in the NBA. It led our expansion efforts in the ’80s. The citizens supported this team early on and continuously, and it disappoints me greatly.”

Stern’s comments came at the end of the two-day Board of Governors meeting.

The relocation committee met with Shinn and Wooldridge Monday, then met with city officials from Charlotte to hear details of a new arena proposal.

Stern said he was not concerned with the honesty of Shinn and Wooldridge, who announced last week — incorrectly, it turns out — that they had met all the benchmarks set by the league concerning ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.

The Hornets also were caught by the Charlotte Observer underreporting attendance figures, using the turnstile count instead of the league standard of tickets sold.

Team spokesman Harold Kaufman said the team would comply with league rules for reporting attendance over the remainder of the season.

Stern also said he would not preclude Charlotte from one day getting a different NBA franchise after a new arena is built, but he did not want to speculate on a timetable for when that might possibly happen.

Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo repeatedly used the phrase “buttoning up” when speaking of what the Hornets need to do to meet the league’s benchmarks. Granik said the area of concern is ticket sales.

When asked if there was any chance that the Hornets would play in Charlotte next season, Stern paused for several seconds before answering.

“Whether you call it meeting the benchmarks or buttoning up, they have to do that. If they do, they’ll play in New Orleans. If they don’t, the committee will have another decision to make,” the commissioner said.

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