Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Orleans has an NBA team-For Now.

New Orleans Arena
New Orleans, La.

Dear Family and Friends,

On another night in another city, Chris Paul would already be a superstar. From the stands, he seems unassuming, like a guy that sits in the front row of a class but doesn't ask questions. You know he's smart, but he doesn't advertise it. Even his socks lack the normal NBA standoutness. They aren't the ones that are so low they're not visible or so high that they cover the entire leg.

On this night, in this City, Chris Paul just hopes people come watch his team play. The New Orleans Hornets, until recently, had the lowest attendance in the NBA. My friends and I, we live two blocks from the arena. On a game night, we can walk to the box office and for 10 dollars see the game.

Ticket availability isn't because of a bad product. The Hornets won eight in a row going into last night. Actually, the Hornets won eight in a row by over 14 points, and led the NBA's Western Conference. For the non-basketball readers, it's a pretty big deal for this time of year.

My roommate Jules, a buddy named Pavel and I walked to the arena to see the Hornets try to extend their streak against the Denver Nuggets. As we walked, we talked about how the state of Louisiana and the owner of the Hornets, inked an agreement that would allow the Hornets out of their arena lease after the end of next season if attendance doesn't average at least 14,375 fans a game.

Even on their streak the Hornets haven't been winning at the turnstiles. They've fallen short since the deal was signed. The attendance reporting began on December 7th. Pavel and I went to the Portland Trailblazers game last week with 11,000 others. Pavel says that the Hornets have the most marketing and ticket promotions in the league. I had a guy sell me the tickets to last week's game at work-- a door-to-door salesman in 2008. Tie and ID card included.

As we rounded the corner, the Superdome in the corner of our right eyes, larger lines were forming than I remembered seeing at the two previous games I'd attended.

"Geez, maybe we won't get in," I said.

We did. But, the 10 dollar tickets had sold out. We went up to the 20 dollar section and saw plenty of empty seats but less than the Portland game. The attendance ended up being over 15,000. So, in the race to keep the team here, last night the people of New Orleans kept pace.

The Hornets won their ninth straight game beating Denver by 24 points. Fans chanted "MVP" when Chris Paul left the game in the fourth quarter.

Some say it'd be a PR nightmare if the Hornets left New Orleans. They can't leave until 2010. It'd be five years post-Katrina and the country will really have made the Storm a once-a-year commemoration by then. The Hornets' future can be determined by the residents, it's one of the only outcomes where the people have control.



Photo: CNNSI.com

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