If prospective Atlanta Hawks owner Alex Meruelo is found to be unfit by the NBA, might the league step in and take on the team itself, as it's done with the New Orleans Hornets? It's clear the Atlanta Spirit Group wants to dump the property by any means necessary, and if Meruelo can't afford it, there might not be many other dessert-lovers with the means and patience to straighten out the ASG's mess in a rotten economy and following games missed due to a lockout.
I asked SBNation.com's Tom Ziller, who knows more about NBA economics than do you and I and all our friends combined:
The NBA did not enjoy being forced to take over the New Orleans Hornets, and will not be seeking any more franchises for its cupboard.
New Orleans was a special circumstance: George Shinn was reviled by nearly everyone, he was about to go broke and he had legit offers to sell the team to out-of-towners (like billionaire Larry Ellison) who would have almost immediately filed to relocate. The NBA has made a big deal out of its commitment to New Orleans, and the league clearly believes the market can thrive with the right owner and a nice little bond package from the state.
Atlanta's obviously different: while no one enjoys the Spirit's continued existence, there's no chance the Hawks are leaving, and it's unlikely the individual spokes of ASG will let the team go broke. If Meruelo falls through and ASG has to hang on until Gucci Mane gets the appropriate investors in line, they will likely just do it, perhaps stripping expenses Paul Allen-style on the way. (So long, Marvin Williams.)
I don't think the league will get involved beyond denying Meruelo, except to help connect ASG to a well-funded buyer.
So if Meruelo hasn't sold sufficient pizzas to earn the right to pay Joe Johnson, we're stuck with the Atlanta Spirit Group again. But better an ASG-riddled local NBA franchise than no NBA franchise at all, right y'all?
For more, visit Hawks blog Peachtree Hoops.