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Adios, Hornets

By now, you have probably heard that the deal has been struck and if the NBA approves it,
the Hornets are blowing Charlotte off
and going to the Big Easy.
Charlotte's reaction largely seems to be good riddance, but that's aimed mostly
at George Shinn, who did a brilliant job of selling the concept to the NBA and
Charlotte, but who has been a disaster since. First he offered Larry
Johnson a contract he really couldn't afford to offer, then sold off the core of
a promising young team - Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Kendall Gill.

Add in the sexual scandal he endured, and, well, if you didn't know it,
Charlotte has a major road called the Billy Graham Parkway. They have it
because a lot of people there are culturally and religiously conservative, and
the scandal killed whatever respect remained for Shinn among a lot of folks in

Still, there are efforts to keep the Hornets, though
it appears to be a long shot.
But in New Orleans, one columnist thinks
David Stern hates the idea.

Like a lot of North Carolinians, probably, we have mixed feelings. It
was a rush to see them come to Charlotte, and a nice recognition of the state's
growth. But really in many ways Shinn has betrayed us, to the extent that
the prospect of the Hornets leaving is almost a relief. There was a time
when the seats were packed, and the environment was incredibly exciting, but
that's long gone, sadly. We think it could return if the Hornets had
different ownership, but that's not likely unless the NBA blocks the sale and
forces Shinn and his partner to lose tons more money (that would make anyone

So now Shinn leaves a small market, where he has lost money and can't afford
elite talent, for an even smaller, less prosperous one. New Orleans is a great
town. It's a blast, it's totally unique in the world, and it's probably a
disastrous place for the NBA. First of all, there are a lot of other things to
do, most of them decadent, and in various ways exciting. That's one thing the
NBA can't say right now.

Secondly, despite our affection for one of the great cities in the world, it
is a poor and (by NBA standards) quite small market. No one will look down
on George Schinn there - he'll just become part of their floating opera,
possibly even earn affection for his hijinks - but he still won't be able to
afford talent, he'll still make bad decisions, and the overall health of the
franchise will continue to deteriorate.

Don't get us wrong - considering Schinn's destruction of the team, the front
office has done a magnificent job. The team has remained competitive despite not
keeping Johnson, Mourning, and Gill, and despite not drafting Kobe Bryant, who
of course went elsewhere (the Hornets traded the pick since Kobe was reluctant
to play there). They've been resourceful as hell and the team has done
very well, all things considered.

Still, Schinn - called Schinnbrenner by some - has alienated Charlotte so
totally that things have come to this turn: leaving a solid market for a lesser
one. Yes, they get guarantees there. Yes, Charlotte refused to build a stadium.
Good on both parties. New Orleans gets a second chance, finally, and Charlotte,
unlike a lot of cities, stood up to extortion.

New Orleans will learn about Schinn soon enough, but what Schinn will
probably learn is this: there's a reason why the Saints have traditionally
bombed, and there's a reason why the Jazz sucked until they moved. It's
simple. The lifestyle is just incredibly seductive. Mardi Gras is
only the high point. That city is a great place to drink to excess, party
too much, sleep until noon, and have sex with an astonishing number of partners
(well that's what we hear, anyway) - all exceptionally bad temptations for a
team full of guys who work 2-4 hours a day.

In our mind, this would rule out drafting a number of recent early entry
players - Lamar Odom, Leon Smith, and Jermaine O'Neal spring to mind, and guys
like Chris Mullin (in the old days), Rick Robey, and Charles Barkley would have
had serious problems in that city. Not to mention recent Hornet Derrick Coleman.

So it's going to be interesting.