The Hornets will exceed their attendance requirement tonight when they host the Thunder. What is the next challenge to assuring New Orleans will remain an NBA city? John Reid of the Times Picayune examines the next step.

Since the NBA purchased the Hornets from George Shinn and Gary Chouest last month for upwards of $300 million, its primary goal has been to strengthen the franchise’s economical footing while attempting to attract local ownership. A big part of that equation is a new collective bargaining agreement to control player salaries, revenue sharing among the league’s 30 owners and seeking new inducements from the state to fill any monetary shortcomings.

“We’re not in any particular hurry, and someone made the correct observation that we’ll wait perhaps until the collective bargaining gets concluded,’’ NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month. “We’re not out soliciting interest in ownership right now.’’

Under the current collective bargaining agreement that expires June 30, a number of franchises are losing money without a revenue-sharing plan in place to offset the players’ salaries, where maximum player contracts can range from $96 million for five years to $125 million for six years.

Chicago-based sports consultant Marc Ganis said the league’s current business model no longer works and small-market teams such as the Hornets need either a new source of revenue or must drastically reduce their costs.

“Players cost in a sport like the NBA has gotten way out of control, and there is not a large TV contract to fall back on,’’ Ganis said last month.

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Regardless of the attendance benchmark, the Hornets long term future in the Crescent City will come down ownership. Once a new CBA is agreed upon, will anyone buy the team? The answer is yes. Ultimately, it's the next question that will determine whether or not the Hornets stay in New Orleans. Will that owner be local, and/or desire to keep the team in New Orleans? Time will tell. In the short term, the best thing Hornet fans can do is support their team by buying season tickets, and enjoying some of the best basketball in the NBA.