Shinn calls games in New Orleans a success

NEW ORLEANS -- Hornets owner George Shinn pronounced his team's three games back in New Orleans a major success and said it left him optimistic about the Hornets' chances to succeed when they are slated to return to the city full time for the 2007-08 season.

"I had doubts at first. Quite frankly, I was scared. I didn't know we'd have the success we've had and I've been very pleased," Shinn said before Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. "It's good for New Orleans, it's good for us."

The first two games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets were sellouts, and Shinn said the final game was very close to selling out, with tickets still being purchased up to tip-off.

The Hornets will remain temporarily based in Oklahoma City next season, with six home games against Western Conference teams to be played in New Orleans.

Shinn said he's hoping to get the same type of crowds next season and that the team will work on getting deposits for a 41-game home schedule the following season.

"That's going to be the story," Shinn cautioned.

Shinn called the condition of the arena, which had minor flooding during Hurricane Katrina, "magnificent."

"Everything's perfect in that regard," Shinn said. "Can the city support us? I think it can. I know a lot of people have been displaced, but without saying the wrong thing, a lot of the people that have been displaced were not ticket holders and a lot of these people couldn't afford tickets. The people that could ... are either still here or they're living in Metairie or somewhere close and that's the reason we're having sellout crowds."

While trying to remain firm on his commitment to return to the city, which his lease requires him to do, he stopped short of making any guarantees. Attendance has been strong in Oklahoma city, often exceeding 18,000.

"The team would be an absolute financial success to stay in Oklahoma. I can't deny that," Shinn said. "If everybody here, the state and everybody, can step up and give us some confidence, than everything's going to work here. ... I want it to work."

Shinn said the only reason he left some wiggle room was because it was impossible to foretell not only how well the city would continue to recover from Katrina, but whether another major storm would hit the area next hurricane season.

"The plan, again, is to come back here," Shinn said. "I'm not God. ... If another Katrina hits here and hits dead on here, what's going to happen? I don't know the answer to that question, but it's probably not going to be good. We've all got have our eyes open and we've all got to make the right decision."

NBA commissioner David Stern has said the league intends for the Hornets to return and the NBA All-Star Game is tentatively scheduled for New Orleans in 2008.

"I just want the best to happen to this city," Shinn said. "Everybody politically or business-wise, whatever, wants us to come back, so that's good. But the bottom line is, it's got to make sense. What would be bad is ... if we come back and three years later have to leave. That doesn't help anybody."