Union doubts Big Easy ready for NBA All-Star Game

Updated: February 28, 2007, 9:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Reports of crime and violence in Las Vegas during All-Star weekend have NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter concerned about New Orleans' ability to host the NBA's midseason party next season.

On Monday, Hunter told Newsday that he'll take the NBA to court to try and move the game if New Orleans, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, can't prove it's ready to handle the event.

"If the union is not convinced that the city can accommodate the All-Star Game, it's an issue that will be subject to litigation between the union and the league," Hunter said.

Hunter is concerned that post-Katrina New Orleans does not have a big enough police force or enough resources to handle the crowd that comes with an NBA All-Star Game.

"First of all, their police force is dissipated. They're probably dealing with half the force they had before," Hunter told Newsday. "They don't have all the resources that we will need to properly police the city. They've got a serious crime problem as it is. And so what are they going to do?"

Hunter told the newspaper he plans to discuss the matter with NBA Commissioner David Stern in the "immediate future."

At least one player -- one with police training -- is also concerned.

"I'm not sure if the city of New Orleans is ready for something like that," Shaquille O'Neal, who played at LSU, told Newsday. "I don't know what New Orleans' situation is, but from watching the Spike Lee special and watching the news, it doesn't look like it's ready for something like that."

Speaking Monday in New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin praised the city's public-safety efforts during Mardi Gras, saying the two weekends of celebration were mostly void of criminal behavior.

"We were quite pleased up until the night of Mardi Gras, when a couple of people got a little too excited later on that evening," Nagin said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, referring to a stabbing death and two separate shootings.

According to the newspaper, the New Orleans Police Department estimated about 800,000 people hit the streets on Mardi Gras. By next year, Nagin said he believes the city will be able to handle a crowd of 1 million.

"In spite of some of the negativity that has been brought forth over and over again by some in the media," Nagin said, "people are still coming to New Orleans to see about us and to experience what we have to offer."

The 2008 All-Star Game will be part of a hectic two-month run for New Orleans in early 2008, along with college football's BCS Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl and Mardi Gras.

Stern has other concerns about New Orleans.

"We think it's time to move past having this wonderful tourist ability, a great convention center, and a covered arena, and then you take your guests on tours of areas that have been devastated and where it seems like very, very little has been done," he said earlier this month. "We don't understand it."

But planners believe the All-Stars' arrival could provide a lift in those areas, through charitable events that could be organized with the NBA, players or sponsors.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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