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Posted: Sunday December 5, 2010 1:13AM ; Updated: Sunday December 5, 2010 1:26AM

Source: NBA tabs hockey chairman to potentially run Hornets

Story Highlights

Minnesota Wild vice chair Jac Sperling could run the Hornets in the interim

Sperling would run the team while the NBA seeks a permanent buyer

The Hornets can opt out of their lease if attendance is low through mid-January

By Ian Thomsen, SI.com

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As the NBA moves toward buying the New Orleans Hornets, a league source has identified a potential administrator to run the team on an interim basis -- Jac Sperling, vice chairman of the Minnesota Wild.

Sperling would be charged by the NBA with running the Hornets while overseeing their sale to a permanent buyer. The league has said it wants to keep the franchise in New Orleans, but the team can opt out of its lease if it averages less than 14,213 fans over a span of 13 home games from Dec. 1 to Jan. 17, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The 13-5 Hornets were averaging 13,826 with four more games to go before the deadline.

These developments follow SI's original report last week that the league discussed during its October board of governors meeting a takeover of the Hornets from owner George Shinn, who wants to unload the team but hasn't been able to find a buyer.

Two league sources tell SI.com they expect the NBA to take control of the Hornets soon. "It could happen within 48 hours,'' said one of the sources on Saturday.

If the Hornets were to move, possible new locations would include Kansas City, Anaheim and Chicago, which is the third-largest market in the country yet has only one NBA franchise.

Sperling, a sports attorney, helped broker the 2005 sale of the Anaheim Ducks to his clients, Henry and Susan Samueli. As CEO of the Wild from 1997 to 2004 he turned Minnesota into one of the NHL's most successful franchises. Sperling was born in New Orleans.

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