Nakia Hogan has a well-researched and well-written story in today's Times-Picayune about how the Hornets were such a big hit with their fans when they first started playing in Charlotte. That was a long time ago just over 20 years and the article makes you wonder why the team ever left the basketball hotbed of North Carolina.
Hogan's story, though, is incomplete.
When I first started reading the story, I thought it would be a cautionary tale. The Hornets were, in fact, wildly popular in North Carolina for the better part of a decade. Now, though, the Hornets and George Shinn are pariahs in that state. The "Whorenets", as some people call them, were alledgedly stingy on payroll, were not interested in building a contender and their devilish owner tried to fleece the city of Charlotte into building an arena while simultaneously trying to relocate the team. George Shinn and the Hornets alieanated their fans to the point where they just stopped showing up to games and the city council at one point considered giving the team a new Arena if they got a new owner. Even national magazines decried Shinn as one of the worst owners in the league.
But no one really likes to talk about that now. For his part, George Shinn did publicly admit to "messing up" in Charlotte. Moreover, Shinn and the Hornets have done an admirable job in showing their commitment to New Orleans, whether it be working to help rebuild the city or saving the state some money. (Personally, in the short conversations I've had with Shinn, I've found him nothing short of sweet and accomodating and I think New Orleans couldn't ask for a better owner.)
Now the whole Charlotte mess is in the past and, as I mentioned, the Hornets seemed committed to New Orleans. But you have to admit that there are parallels that can be drawn between what happened in Charlotte and what has happened in New Orleans. The Hornets, as you can probably tell, are wildly popular right now in the Crescent City. They have a once-in-a-lifetime talent in Chris Paul and seem to be building a core of players that can compete for years. But what if something unforseen happens? Say Paul goes down with a serious injury (God forbid) or the New Orleans Arena starts to show it's age and limitations as one of the smallest venues in the NBA. Say attendance starts to drop off or the Tyson Chandler-non-trade was just a hint of how shallow this team's pockets could be. Isn't it still fair to ask whether or not the Shinns will pack up this team and move at the first sign of trouble?
Makes you wonder why the Times-Pic even brought up the Charlotte glory days to begin with.
God's speed, Rodrigue
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