NEW ORLEANS — NBA Commissioner David Stern visited the site of what will be the Hornets’ new practice facility and offices on Wednesday before the team’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He came away pleased.
Stern said he was impressed with the progress of the construction of the team’s new digs, which began recently near the Saints’ facility in Metairie. And he was clearly pleased with what he said was the cooperation between the Hornets and Saints, the city’s two major league sports facilities owned by Tom Benson.
In a talk with the media that lasted about 20 minutes, Stern touched on the the state of the Hornets, their proposed name change to the Pelicans and Kobe Bryant going for his 30,000th point, among other things.
Stern said he didn’t mind the name change, but that nothing officially has been put into motion by Benson concerning it.
“I don’t have any objections to what the Hornets want to do, name-wise, because I’m sure it will be sensible,” he said. “If ‘Pelicans’ is what they want to change it to, that’s fine with me.”
Concerning how the name might resonate, he said: “Do you see many lakes in Los Angeles? About as much jazz as you see in Utah and grizzlies in Memphis.
“There is a lot that goes into changing the name,” he said. “I do know that the Hornets filed to protect five names with trademark protection, and they have to apply to us, pay certain fees, and there is a timing schedule. But I do know that they have a friend in the front office that may get them a chance to expedite the process and make the change sooner than the NBA says that it will happen.”
Stern said he did not plan his trip to coincide with Bryant’s reaching his milestone, but said he held him in the highest esteem as a basketball player.
“As a talent, as a competitor, I think that he is right up there on the pedestal with Michael Jordan,” Stern said. “He is one of the greatest. He has had an amazing run at the highest level, winning many championships in a very competitive league.”
Stern, who took over the franchise as the league looked for a new owner, said he felt very good about the future of the Hornets.
“They are a young team,” he said. “Two of their best young players are injured as we speak. They have lots of cap room, they have their draft picks, they have a stable situation with (General Manager) Del (Demps’) extension, and they have one of the best young coaches in the league in Monty, who guarantees a competitive matchup every night.”