NBA reaffirms All-Star commitment to New Orleans

2/27/2007 - NBA

NEW YORK -- The NBA and its players' association reiterated
their commitment to New Orleans on Tuesday, a day after union
director Billy Hunter said he could sue over the league's plans to
host its next All-Star game there.

Hunter plans to fly to New Orleans next week for his first visit
to the city since Hurricane Katrina, and will meet with city
officials and look into accommodations for players and their
guests. He also said he has a number of meetings planned with
commissioner David Stern to discuss plans for next year's

On Monday, Hunter told Newsday that, "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

However, Hunter said he was just speaking hypothetically and
would only act if he felt the safety of his players was in
jeopardy. He said he anticipates no problems, adding that a number
of Hornets players look forward to their return to the city.

"If things for some reason or other were to degenerate to the
level where everybody was alarmed, where it just wouldn't make
sense to go, in that instance I could always initiate a lawsuit,"
he said. "That's not to say I'd prevail, but clearly I could do
that. But we're nowhere near that, and it was a hypothetical
situation to begin with."

The Hornets have spent most of the two seasons since Katrina in
Oklahoma City, but will return to New Orleans full-time next
season. To show its commitment to the city, the NBA announced last
year that it would stage next year's All-Star weekend in New

Hunter was responding to questions about whether New Orleans
could handle the event, after there were hundreds of arrests and
complaints about the crowds during All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.
But while Hunter and Stern have expressed concern over the
direction of the rebuilding efforts, both sides expect a successful

"We're looking forward to New Orleans playing host to next
year's All-Star events and are equally excited about the Hornets'
return to the city next season," Stern said in a statement. "The
reports we have received about other major events and conventions
recently held in New Orleans have been very positive, and we fully
expect All-Star 2008 to be a great success.

"While progress is still necessary in the continued rebuilding
efforts, we hope the return of the Hornets and the coming All-Star
game will be part of the rebirth and vibrancy of the New Orleans

Next year's game should be a huge financial boost to the
struggling city. Las Vegas officials estimated a non-gaming
economic impact of more than $90 million, and Hunter said one of
his goals is for some of that money to reach those who need it

"I want to make sure that there's some trickle down, that the
people in the community who've historically benefited, who've
historically been there, that they benefit from it," Hunter said.
"That it's not just, that it all just doesn't stay in the certain
area of the city and other folk don't get benefit who should