Hornets seek lease option in Oklahoma as contingency

Updated: September 21, 2006, 7:10 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Hornets have requested an option that would allow the team to spend a third season in Oklahoma City as a contingency plan if it is unable to return to New Orleans in 2007-08 as planned.

The request is being handled as part of a negotiations to resolve a disagreement over the amount of revenue from last season the team must share with the city.

"Any smart business is going to put a contingency plan together, and that's all this is," Hornets spokesman Michael Thompson said Thursday.

After being displaced by Hurricane Katrina last August, the Hornets were left without a home only about two months before the NBA season started. They ended up playing 36 of their home games in Oklahoma City and one in Norman.

"A year ago on Aug. 29 we didn't have a contingency plan and we got very, very lucky that we landed in Oklahoma City," Thompson said.

The request was first reported Thursday by The Oklahoman on its Web site.

"It's not something we're focused on," Thompson said. "Our focus is on a successful return to New Orleans in '07-'08."

The Hornets aren't the first team to seek a backup plan.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Nets agreed to extend their lease at the Continental Airlines Arena for five years, even though they expect to be in a new arena in Brooklyn within that time frame.

NBA commissioner David Stern has repeatedly said the Hornets will play all of their games in New Orleans in 2007-08 -- including last month as the U.S. prepared to play at the world championships.

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

Thompson and Tom Anderson, Oklahoma City's special projects manager, said negotiations between the Hornets and the city are still ongoing. Any agreement would be subject to approval by the City Council.

"I think we're real close," Anderson said.

Also Thursday, The Oklahoman and three other Oklahoma-based businesses -- MidFirst Bank, Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. -- agreed to be the Hornets' primary sponsors for their second season in Oklahoma City.

The Hornets will play 35 home games at Oklahoma City's Ford Center this season and the other six -- including the season opener -- in New Orleans.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press