NEW ORLEANS- In a surprise move, the New Orleans Hornets announced Monday night that they will be moving to Europe for the 2009-2010 season.
"We had to think about it long and hard," said team majority owner George Shinn at an emotional press conference. "But we've seen the success stories. Brandon Jennings, Josh Childress, and our very own Jannero Pargo have thrived in that environment. With the value of the dollar plummeting, there's no time like now."
The favored destinations would appear to be Barcelona, Moscow, and Stockholm, although the Bosnian city of Medugorje- whose lax tax policies and frequent religious apparations appeal to Shinn- is a darkhorse candidate.
Despite Shinn's upbeat tone, GM Jeff Bower struck a more despondent chord. "We definitely feel like we let the league down tonight. With all the goodwill that the United States has built internationally, especially in the last decade, especially in the Middle East, we definitely feel like we let the whole country down tonight. Nobody can take this great nation seriously any more, and for that we must atone."
The decision was made official during the second quarter of the Hornets' basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, with paperwork filed and approved at halftime. League personnel spent much of the second half explaining to Nuggets players that they were no longer engaging in an athletic exhibition with an organization recognized by the United States of America, but to no avail. While the NBA has not released an official statement, league insiders say that all basketballs used in the contest will be branded with asterisks and launched into space for this reason.
Some at the forefront of the industry have speculated that heavy pressure from League Commissioner David Stern may have expedited the process. One source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that Stern has been urging the Hornet front office to move star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers for at least the last two seasons. "Backed by the commissioner, the Lakers attempted to move Kwame Brown to New Orleans for Paul, only to be rebuffed," explained the source, adding that the Lakers were forced to settle for Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol.
Chris Paul himself was noncommittal and evasive when approached about the move, opting to slam his head into a brick wall multiple times. Power forward David West characterized it as "abhorrent, yet possessive of a peculiar brilliance." For reasons still unclear, no fans could be reached for comment before publish time.
The Hornets' move is sure to radically shift an ever-changing international basketball landscape. Many have been concerned with the apparent interest of international squads in superstars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. In much the same way that Josh Childress' departure paved the way for the literally tens of players that proceeded to make the jump, the Hornets' departure stands as a beacon of hope for other franchises that are either struggling in the current financial landscape or are susceptible to humiliating beatdowns by teams coached by George Karl. Additionally, the lack of a salary cap could transform the universally panned signing of James Posey into a transaction of Da Vinci-esque acuity.
In a related story and in a truly strange twist of fate, Jannero Pargo agreed to return to New Orleans for a 4 year, 36 million dollar deal, mere moments before the Hornets' announcement.