The New Orleans Hornets have finally flourished after leaving Oklahoma City for good. The SuperSonics franchise, meanwhile, may not improve until it starts playing there.

Now playing all of their home games in New Orleans, the Hornets are off to the best 37-game start in franchise history. They'll look to continue their success Wednesday night when they host a downtrodden Seattle team that wants desperately to relocate to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City's Ford Center hosted the Hornets (25-12) for parts of two seasons after Hurricane Katrina forced the team's temporary relocation in 2005. New Orleans finished under .500 and missed the playoffs in both of those seasons.

With New Orleans Arena now their full-time home base, though, the Hornets are among the elite teams in the Western Conference. Winner of 10 of its last 12, New Orleans is just 14 victories shy of matching last season's total of 39.

After winning their seventh straight road game Sunday, 87-82 over Houston, the Hornets will be kicking off a five-game stretch at home. They have won six of their last eight at New Orleans Arena.

The Ford Center, meanwhile, is where the Sonics (9-28) are hoping to play next season.

Oklahoma City residents will vote March 4 on a proposed one-cent sales tax to pay for improvements to the Ford Center, the City Council decided unanimously Jan 2. That vote will take place about six weeks before NBA owners meet to vote on an application by the Sonics to move to Oklahoma City.

The Sonics' efforts to move the team from Seattle also has ended up in federal court, where a judge will decide whether the team must honor the final three years on its lease at KeyArena. The team's lease in Seattle expires after the 2009-2010 season.

Seattle certainly hasn't been competitive this season, and it may take a few years - whether the franchise moves to Oklahoma City or not - to gain respectability.

The Sonics have lost six straight on the road, averaging 83.8 points in that span, and have dropped seven straight overall.

"I think guys have to be professional," Seattle forward Nick Collison said. "You can't let the past and the future affect you. You just have to play possession by possession and that's what we have to do as a team.

"You can't look at it as seven straight losses. You have to look at it as I have to guard this player and execute this play. All of a sudden it's not so bad."

After nearly pulling off an upset in a 123-121 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, the Sonics will try and avoid being swept in their season series with the Hornets. New Orleans is 2-0 against Seattle this season, holding the Sonics to 90.5 points per game.

Swingman Kevin Durant, the second overall pick in last year's draft, has been Seattle's lone bright spot this season. He is averaging 20.5 points in two games against the Hornets.

The development of Chris Paul, meanwhile, has sparked New Orleans' resurgence. The third-year guard is averaging 25.0 points, 12.5 assists and 3.0 steals in this season's series with the Sonics.


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