NEW ORLEANS — Even before the first tip of the 2012-13 season, NBA Commissioner David Stern proclaimed the New Orleans Hornets’ inaugural campaign under first-year owner Tom Benson to be an unequivocal success.
Not in terms of wins and losses but in dollars and sense.
“There is always some risk, but I think Tom and the Saints are about as risk-free a partner for New Orleans and the NBA as there could possibly be,” Stern recently told The Advocate via long distance during a stop in Berlin, where he attended a Dallas Mavericks exhibition game against a local professional team.
“I would say there is no more ideal candidate to ensure the continuation and success of the Hornets than Tom Benson. As I said when we announced the sale back in April, I told our owners, ‘I have somebody from central casting, and his name is Tom Benson.’ ”
On Wednesday night, the Hornets will usher in Game 1 of the Benson era against the San Antonio Spurs in what is being billed as “Halloween at The Hive” at the New Orleans Arena.
Tipoff is 7 p.m.
The game comes more than 61/2 months after Benson purchased the Hornets from the league for $338 million, a deal that included a lease agreement to keep the team playing at the state-owned New Orelans Arena through 2024.
Stern called Benson an ideal partner for the NBA, because “He cares deeply about the community and is deeply invested in it with respect to the Champions Square developments and other investments in and about New Orleans.
“Plus, the prospect of corporate sponsorships and season-ticket sales being coordinated between the Saints and Hornets franchises and the whole concept of using the Saints training camp as a possible site for a practice facility and offices for the Hornets made this partnership very attractive,” Stern said.
“It was my job to cause him to part with his hard-earned dollars, which he continues to comment on.”
Stern chuckled, then continued his good-natured jab of the NBA’s newest owner.
“Actually, I thought it was too good to be true if we could make it work,” Stern said. “My only job was to get him to pay retail. The best part about it was when he finally said, ‘OK, David, I’ll pay your price.’ But he knew it was worth it.
“He knew it was going to work, and, right now, all those things have come to pass — even before our season has started — with respect to ticket sales, sponsorship sales and potential renovations and the like are all going full-steam ahead.
“It’s going to be a very successful year.”
As if on cue, Hornets officials announced Tuesday that Pepsi and evamor have signed on as corporate partners. With the addition of the two beverage partners, the Hornets and the New Orleans Arena will have the opportunity to enhance the fan experience with new products, as well as lower price points for concessions.
In September, team spokesman Harold Kaufman said the Hornets had surpassed an average of 12,000 tickets sold per game this season, which includes partial- and full-season ticket packages, group sales and suites sold.
It is the highest tickets-sold-per-game-average before the start of a season since the Hornets relocated from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002. The increased interest, perhaps, reflects a combination of new ownership, a stabilized front office and the buzz surrounding No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis and fellow rookie guard Austin Rivers.