NBA to Louisville Update: Miller to Meet with Stern

Another shot at the Hornets for Louisville?

Don’t get all excited yet, but talk of an NBA team’s move to Louisville is ramping up. Last night, WAVE-TV’s Kent Taylor aired an interview with J. Bruce Miller, the local attorney hired by the Metro Council to negotiate with the league about bringing a team here.

Miller said a few potentially key things have happened. For one, his unnamed investor group has signed a “No Shopping” agreement tying their money to Louisville if they pursue a team. And Miller said that renovations to Freedom Hall as a home to the team wouldn’t be in the previously-mentioned $100 million range, since his investors told him they’d make up potential luxury suite revenue with TV rights money.

Dan Johnson, the Metro Council member who’s been pushing for the NBA the longest (we reminisced briefly about how cool the Colonels were back in the 1970s), told me he couldn’t say much about the progress. Then he said this: “I think things are going very well. This time we really have an opportunity to do it.”

The fact that the team would play at Freedom Hall, and not the new Yum Center, certainly makes things easier for scheduling. “Freedom Hall needs a lot of help,” Johnson said. “It’s in my district and it needs something like this. It would be the biggest thing to ever happen in Louisville.”

Johnson added that he’s optimistic because Mayor Greg Fischer is an enthusiastic supporter of the project, a reference to the tepid support in the past provided by Jerry Abramson and, more importantly, Dave Armstrong. If you read Miller’s book “Airball” about the city’s attempts to land an NBA team while Armstrong was Mayor, you know that Miller blames him, in part, for the city’s failure to get the then-Charlotte Hornets.

Perhaps more significant, Miller said he’s going to New York next week to meet with NBA commissioner David Stern to update him on the city’s progress.

The most likely franchise to move here is the New Orleans Hornets, which the league bought in December and was mired in $100 million in debt. The NBA takeover prompted New Orleans officials to initiate a new push in ticket sales and corporate sponsorships, including a state-of-the-franchise event in which the NBA demands for keeping the team there were outlined.

The bottom line, though, is that the NBA owns the team, not some fickle millionaire, which could be a strong signal that the time is finally right for the city to make a strong pitch.