The Hornets have made some impressive strides this season. They're hoping those improvements will be sufficient to help them stay in New Orleans.

On Friday, they look to bounce back from a tough loss when they host the struggling Miami Heat.

The Hornets play six of their next seven at home, where they are 9-7 this season. On Wednesday, both the team and the state of Louisiana announced an agreement to changes in the Hornets' arena lease. The agreement allows the Hornets to leave New Orleans as early as after next season for a financial penalty, but also allows them to stay longer if fan support improves.

The new lease runs through 2014 - an extension of two seasons - which makes up for the period when the franchise was relocated following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Both the state and Hornets ownership have great confidence in the team's fan base," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said in a written statement. "With the team's performance on the court thus far and their work in helping rebuild New Orleans, I believe that the Hornets and their fans are on the right track."

The Hornets (23-12) had their three-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night at home with a 109-80 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers - just their second defeat in the last 10 games. New Orleans shot just 36.9 percent from the field and trailed by double digits for most of the game.

"We were very passive," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We just didn't come out ready to play."

Chris Paul scored 32 points and David West added 19 points and nine rebounds in the defeat, which came after a 3-0 West Coast road trip in which the Hornets had outscored opponents by an average margin of 10.3 points.

"It's a tough loss for us after winning three pretty good road games," Paul said. "Maybe it was a lack of energy or just a lack of focus ... I don't think it was so much of what we didn't do as what they did well."

The Hornets look to bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season against the Heat (8-28), who have lost nine straight overall and eight consecutive road games.

Miami fell to 0-4 on its five-game road trip Wednesday with a 98-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Dwyane Wade scored 34 points while Jason Williams added a season-high 23 in the defeat.

"It's frustrating, but we're not in here cussing each other out, pointing fingers at each other or nothing like that," Wade said. "We want to find a way to get out of it, and the only way we can do that is to continue to keep performing together."

Pat Riley announced before the game that despite his team's struggles, he doesn't intend on leaving as coach as had been rumored. He's under contract through 2009-10.

"I very rarely have to answer questions about it when we're winning," Riley said. "It's only when you're losing."

Miami begins a season-high seven-game homestand next Wednesday against Chicago.


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