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Hornets seek lease option in Oklahoma as contingency

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.