When the New Orleans Hornets open training camp Tuesday, their roster and management team will look dramatically different.
The team has eight new players - headlined by No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis and fellow first-rounder Austin Rivers.
Saints owner Tom Benson purchased the franchise in April and installed his trusted right-hand man, Dennis Lauscha, as team president for the New Orleans Saints and Hornets. Lauscha replaced Hugh Weber, who was not retained after the team's sale was approved by the NBA Board of Governors.
Although he is currently serving an eight-game suspension by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis also oversees the Hornets’ basketball operations department with Dell Demps continuing on as general manager.
All basketball-related decisions are now made in collaboration among Lauscha, Loomis and Demps before it reaches Benson's desk for final approval, according to sources close to the franchise.
Despite the widespread changes, including a new television deal with Fox Sports, Benson’s ownership has brought stability. And for a franchise that appeared to be teetering since the NBA took the unprecedented step of purchasing it from George Shinn and Gary Chouest in 2010, it couldn’t come at a better time.
"This is just the start of what’s going to happen,’’ said Benson, who purchased the team for $338 million. "It’s going to be outstanding, just like the Saints. We’ve been in the playoffs three straight years and I think that is what’s going to happen to this team and it’s going to be real soon. Everyone in our organization, our city and our region is excited to get this season under way. We can’t wait to strive toward our goal of being a champion. I’m looking forward to this."
Gone is the national media speculation the Hornets could end up in Kansas City, Seattle or Anaheim, Calif., because of persistent questions about whether the city could support an NBA team. There are no more attendance benchmarks to meet to prevent an opt-out clause from kicking in and there’s no more running possible trades by NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was the team's de-facto owner/GM when the league owned the franchise.
The Hornets have an escape-proof lease that binds the team to the New Orleans Arena through 2024. There are plans to build a Hornets practice facility at the Saints' complex in Metairie and the Arena will undergo $50 million in upgrades, expected to be completed before New Orleans hosts the 2014 All-Star Game.
"For the first time since I’ve been here, I haven’t had anything else to think about except what kind of players we have and the schemes we’re going to run,’’ said Hornets Coach Monty Williams, who received a four-year contract extension in August.
"I haven’t had to think about moving or who is going to take over. My kids don’t have to hear all those silly questions at school anymore about if your dad is going to keep the team here. All of that stuff the public will never know what we had to deal with the last couple of years.’’