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Sunday, October 29, 2006
Calling all fans: Hornets owner hopes to sell out opener

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Hornets owner George Shinn called on fans Sunday to buy up a few thousand remaining tickets to the team's home opener in New Orleans this week.

"I think it's important not only for us to do our part, I think the fans in New Orleans have got to do their part. They've got to step up and help us," Shinn said. "The league has made the point that it's important for us when we go back to have a successful return, so we've got to make all this work. It's that simple."

About 3,500 tickets remain for the Nov. 5 game at the New Orleans Arena, but Shinn said the lower bowl is entirely sold out. The remaining tickets are in the arena's upper deck.

"I'm very confident we'll have a sellout. We're not there yet, but New Orleans is a different market and it's proven since we've been there that you have a lot of fans that walk up game day," Shinn said at a special event for season-ticket holders in Oklahoma City. "It's a big event town and people are used to that."

The opener will be one of six games the Hornets play in New Orleans this season. The remaining 35 home games will be played in Oklahoma City, which emerged as a temporary home for the team after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

Two of the team's three games in New Orleans last season sold out, and the other came up about 400 fans short.

Shinn said he had been close to an agreement with potential investors seeking a minority stake in the team but "there's a lot of fine-tuning that's got to be done."

"We had a clear understanding of where we were going and then what happened is the lawyers got it screwed up and now it's back in our laps again," Shinn said. "We've got to start renegotiating. ... It happens all the time and it doesn't alarm me."

Shinn also said he had begun identifying corporate sponsors for the team for its return, although nothing is official yet.

"A lot of people just don't make a decision until they just have to. I'm a businessman, I understand that," Shinn said. "There's a lot of people that I know that are going to step up because they've told me they're going to."

Shinn said the NBA has been involved in finding corporate support for the team.

"Am I worried about it? No. Would I like for them all to be signed, sealed and delivered? Yes. But they're not, and we'll just take it a step at a time and get accomplished what we've got to get accomplished," Shinn said.

Shinn told fans at the event that he expects the Hornets, whose 20-win turnaround last season was the biggest in the NBA, to make the playoffs this season after adding Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson, Tyson Chandler and Jannero Pargo in an offseason overhaul.

"I think we're going to be in the playoffs, I really do," Shinn said. "Will I be surprised if we don't? Yes. I won't be crushed. I'm not going to fire the coach, I'll tell you that now."