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Stern expects Hornets to play in N.O. next season

GUANGZHOU, China -- NBA commissioner David Stern says he
expects the Hornets to play all their home games in New Orleans by
the 2007-08 season.

The team has scheduled just six home games for New Orleans in
the upcoming season, with the other 35 in Oklahoma City, where the
Hornets temporarily relocated after Hurricane Katrina.

Team owner George Shinn expects the team to return home
permanently, but said last month he wouldn't rule out a move
elsewhere.

However, Stern said a permanent return to New Orleans was the
only option at present.

"It will happen," Stern said Sunday in Guangzhou, where the
U.S. national team is playing a pair of warmups for the World
Championships in Japan later this month.

"We ultimately decide where their games will be scheduled,"
Stern said. "The following years, our plans are for them to play
41 games in New Orleans."

Before the Hornets, Oklahoma City never had a major sports
franchise, and fans strongly supported the basketball team. The
Hornets sold out 18 of their 36 games at the Ford Center, with
average attendance of 18,717 -- considerably higher than the average
attendance in New Orleans.