The New Orleans Hornets are looking forward to getting back to the Big Easy after receiving reports that their suburban training center survived both Hurricane Gustav and a reported tornado nearby Tuesday evening, general manager Jeff Bower said.
"We're happy the reports are all favorable on the practice site and look forward to resuming operations," said Bower, who expanded a Labor Day weekend vacation with family in Las Vegas because of the storm. "We're happy to be moving forward with our role in the whole area."
The Hornets and NBA have undertaken a wide range of community service projects -- from building homes with Habitat for Humanity to refurbishing public basketball courts and school computer centers -- since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
The Hornets, who were displaced to Oklahoma City for two seasons after Katrina, had only returned full time last season, which turned out to be the best season in franchise history.
During the playoffs and continuing into the summer, the Hornets were able to bolster their season ticket base to over 10,000 -- an NBA benchmark for success in that area. The franchise was primed to capitalize on surging popularity that has been bolstered by the leadership of guard Chris Paul, who was an All-Star last season and an Olympic gold medal winner with USA basketball in Beijing.
However, as Gustav ravaged Cuba and took aim on the Louisiana coast, it appeared the Hornets could be in danger of being displaced again.
"I think everybody had thoughts, and the thing that was helpful this time was the amount of time we all had to be prepared for whatever would come," Bower said. "We're thankful damages to the area are less than they could have been and we hope everyone can get back on their feet easier than last time."
Hornets majority owner George Shinn was in contact with Mayor Ray Nagin in the days before the storm arrived and pledged his help in the recovery from the latest storm.
Although the storm spared New Orleans catastrophic damage, wind damage still was substantial, so the team expected to take on new projects as a result of the storm while continuing to help the ongoing rebuilding process from Hurricane Katrina, Bower said.
When Gustav passed through New Orleans on Monday, debris dented siding on the New Orleans Arena and damaged a large video marquee on an external wall, but the interior and the overall structure, like the Louisiana Superdome next to it, appeared to be in good shape, said Doug Thornton, vice president of SMG, the company that manages both state-owned stadiums.