Professional basketball returns to New Orleans full time tonight. It's a welcome sight for fans that feared the team's two year post-Katrina relocation to Oklahoma City might become a permanent move.
The Hornets played the past couple of seasons there, citing uncertain economic conditions here in New Orleans. They're back now, though, and ready to give it a go.
The Hornet's staff has been working hard to re-introduce the team to the city (only one player, forward David West was on the team when it last called New Orleans home.) They're close to a sell out for opening night, but the real question is whether they can maintain that level of support throughout the season.
Several corporate sponsors have come on board, and sales of suites have been brisk, but season ticket sales have been a little short of where the team hoped to be. Nonetheless they say they're optimistic that a winning team on the court will translate to fan support in the stands. All they need to do is look to the city's football Saints to see how a little winning will get the fan base fired up.
The Hornets have the full backing of NBA commissioner David Stern who will be in attendance tonight. As part of the league's commitment to the city, he is unveiling a wide-ranging community service program that will put dollars and manpower into the rebuilding effort all year long. The team is hoping that effort – plus a few victories – can add up to a memorable basketball season.