The NBA will announce the temporary home of the New Orleans Hornets next week, and a source with knowledge of the situation said yesterday the team likely will play most of its games in Oklahoma City, with the remainder in Baton Rouge, La.
The Hornets have been homeless since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast more than two weeks ago. New Orleans Arena, just a block from the Louisiana Superdome, was not damaged severely but reportedly it will not be ready to play host to games until at least February. The regular season starts in November.
League officials inspected LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge this week and donated goods to hurricane victims. The arena served as a temporary medical facility for evacuees. The three-year old Ford Center in Oklahoma City has a capacity of 19,675 -- about 6,500 more seats than the Maravich Center -- and considerable club and private suites.
NBA representatives were in Oklahoma City last week and reportedly discussed terms of the lease. "They were thrilled with Ford Center; it passed with flying colors," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said on Friday. "They toured the community and gave us an A-plus there, too."
Ford Center has few scheduling conflicts, and the minor league hockey team that plays there has agreed to relocate 22 games.
"We have said all along, 'If there is anyway the team can function in the state of Louisiana and that's best for the NBA, the New Orleans area and the city of Baton Rouge, then that's what we want to happen,' " Cornett said. "But if it comes to a point where they can't really function as a team there and the front office needs a home, we have the Ford Center ready."
-- Michael Lee