NEW ORLEANS — The NBA is looking into buying the New Orleans Hornets from George Shinn until a permanent new owner can be found, a person familiar with the discussions said.
The league intends to find an owner who plans to keep the Hornets in New Orleans, the person told The Associated Press Friday night on condition of anonymity because the NBA has not discussed the idea publicly.
Hornets president Hugh Weber declined comment on the NBA's possible involvement, which was first reported by Sports Illustrated. NBA spokesman Tim Frank also declined comment.
Shinn has been in negotiations to sell the team to minority owner and Louisiana native Gary Chouest since last spring, but talks have been stalled for months.
Chouest, who owns 35 percent of the team, runs a business that supplies vessels to the gulf oil industry. Recently, he has become concerned about his ability to run his family business while taking over the Hornets, said the person who confirmed the NBA's possible purchase of the club.
It is not clear if Chouest would keep his stake in the club if the NBA took over.
Attendance for Hornets games has been lower than the club hoped, despite a 13-6 start. Through 10 home games, average attendance has been 13,865. If it doesn't pick up, the Hornets could have the right to break their lease at the New Orleans Arena after this season. The lease runs through 2014, but the team is allowed to break it if average attendance falls below 14,735 during a two-year period.
The Hornets have been in New Orleans since Shinn, the club's founder, moved them from Charlotte in 2002.
Shinn, 69, was diagnosed last year with prostate cancer, which he said has been treated successfully. He decided after that experience that he wanted to move on from NBA ownership and instead focus on his faith and on efforts to fight cancer.