Hornets to open camp at Air Force Academy

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Hornets will hold at least the first two weeks of this year's training camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., general manager Allan Bristow said.

The NBA team opens its preseason schedule Oct. 13 at Denver's Pepsi Center against the Denver Nuggets.

"As of right now, that's our only option," Bristow said Thursday from his vacation home in Marco Island, Fla. "We'll look for others. But right now that seems to be the best."

Bristow said no decision had been made on where the team would play its home games following the devastation to New Orleans brought by Hurricane Katrina.

All of the team's players and employees have been accounted for and are safe, but family members of several team employees are still unaccounted for, Bristow said.

"There's just no communication," Bristow said. "It's very tough."

For several days, the Houston Rockets have provided phones and work space for some Hornets operations, but Bristow said he looks forward to going to the academy. The Nuggets held training camp there when he was the team's general manager in the late 1990s, and he is friends with Falcons coach Jeff Bzdelik, who was formerly coach of the Nuggets.

The NBA has sent a memo to teams telling them to prepare for the possible relocation of the Hornets.

"Even if the arena is operable, it still may be impossible to play games in New Orleans for some time," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik wrote in the e-mail message, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

Officials have estimated that it could take months to pump all of the water out of New Orleans.

Oklahoma City is willing to host the team this season, Mayor Mick Cornett said Friday. The first scheduled home game is a preseason contest against San Antonio on Oct. 20.

Cornett said that the first choice for the Hornets would obviously be to find someplace in Louisiana to play their season, but he said that since Oklahoma City has an NBA-quality arena, the Ford Center, that does not now have a major league tenant, this could be an option.

"We could be the temporary home for the team and we're available if that makes sense to the city of New Orleans," Cornett said.

Baton Rouge, La., could be a strong option as a temporary location for the Hornets. The city is home to LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which holds 14,164.

Bristow said no decision had been made on where the team would play its home games.

He also said the Air Force is not charging the team, but the Hornets will reimburse the academy for any expenses.

He said because of NBA territorial issues, he also needed authorization from the Nuggets to practice in Colorado.

"They were very nice to grant that to us," Bristow told The Gazette of Colorado Springs. "I just talked to [Nuggets general manager Kiki] Vandeweghe, and he was very, very willing to help us out in any way he can.''

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.