NEW ORLEANS -- Hornets owner George Shinn said Wednesday that he has never wavered in his plan to return full-time to New Orleans for the 2007-08 NBA season.
Just two days after saying the pace of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina was "very discouraging and very depressing," Shinn planned to meet with potential investors interested in ensuring the long-term viability of the franchise in the Crescent City.
The Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City last September after Katrina devastated New Orleans shortly before training camp was scheduled to begin. The team experienced a 30 percent attendance increase in Oklahoma City compared to the previous season in New Orleans. The Hornets sold out two of the three games it played in New Orleans this season, however, and fell just shy of a third.
The Hornets have hired a New York-based sports advisory group to seek potential investors wherever it can find them. More than a dozen with interest in keeping the team in New Orleans were scheduled to meet later Wednesday with Shinn and Hornets guard Chris Paul, the NBA rookie of the year.
Shinn said his focus is on finding investors in "the city you plan to be playing in," meaning New Orleans, where the Hornets have a lease to play through 2012.
Paul and Shinn appeared together at an elementary school in uptown New Orleans, where Paul received his rookie of the year trophy and helped present a donation of 30 computers on behalf of the Cheyenne (Okla.) School District to the Audubon Montessori School.
Afterward, Shinn said his comments earlier in the week were made out of frustration about the slow recovery of parts of New Orleans and did not diminish his commitment to return.
NBA commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly that the franchise will honor its lease and return full-time after next season.
The Hornets will again split their schedule next season, playing 35 games in Oklahoma City and six in New Orleans.
"I have never changed my plans," Shinn said. "I was in a situation where I've been through a lot of stress and I constantly go through it. I've got employees right now that are living in New Orleans and Oklahoma. These guys have a wife and children [in New Orleans].
"One told me that he wants to be with his family. He asked, 'Wouldn't you want to be with your kids?' Sure I would. I don't know what to tell him. It's really wearing on me," he said.
Shinn said he hopes to have a better grasp on the prospects for 2007-08 by December when he sees how ticket sales go for the six games next season and by the number of deposits for full season tickets the following season.
"I've got a high frustration level just like everybody else does," Shinn said. "I'm angry at how slowly things are going. I think the federal government needs to get off its butt and I think the more people that are shouting about it and making noise about it, they're going to respond. I'm sorry, but I'm going to yell because some people need to get off their butt and get something done because it's important to us."