NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The NBA awarded New Orleans the 2014 All-Star game now that Saints owner Tom Benson has agreed to buy the Hornets and sign a lease extension at New Orleans Arena.
NBA Commissioner David Stern, who made the announcement in New Orleans with Benson and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday afternoon, said the All-Star game is a reward to the city and state for efforts to secure the Hornets’ long-term future in Louisiana.
Stern had already pledged that New Orleans would get an All-Star game once a new owner and lease extension were in place. Because of potential conflicts with Mardi Gras in 2015 and 2016, awarding the game in 2014 made the most sense.
The 2013 game will be played in Houston, and Mardi Gras falls on March 4 in 2014, well after the usual mid-February date for NBA All-Star weekend. Mardi Gras falls in mid-February in 2015 and 2016, so if the NBA had given the 2014 event to New York, as some predicted, it would not make sense to hold the game in New Orleans again until 2017. By then, Benson would be 89 years old.
Stern and Benson announced an agreement Friday for the Saints’ owner to take over the Hornets, who have often been on shaky ground since arriving in the Big Easy in 2002.
The Hornets spent two seasons in Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina and often struggled at the gate. They were routinely mentioned as a team of interest by other cities looking to lure an NBA franchise through relocation.