When the Hornets arrived back to the Crescent City full time in 2007 after relocating to Oklahoma City for two years, a benchmark for attendance was set. If the Hornets couldn't average 14,000 and change at home games, the team could opt out of it's lease with the state, and relocate without having to pay an exit free. The Hornets shattered the bench mark, and reportedly, that took the attendance benchmark off the table to 2014. However, according to a report today in the New Orleans Times Picayune, the benchmark pact is back on.

The Times-Picayune reports:

If the Hornets do not average crowds of at least 14,213 for the next 13 games at the New Orleans Arena, the franchise can opt out of its current lease agreement with the state, according to Doug Thornton, vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Arena and the Superdome.

The Hornets and the state amended their lease agreement in 2007 to extend it through 2014, but an attendance benchmark of 14,735 was implemented. The franchise can opt out of the pact if the benchmark is not made over a period of two consecutive years during the agreement.

The Hornets reached the mark for the two-year period that ended in 2009, and the requirement was thought to have been lifted after the state was not required to pay the franchise inducements. But Thornton said Monday the benchmark remains in place.

Despite a franchise-record start, the Hornets have experienced a decline in attendance. This season, attendance has dipped to an average of 14,214 over the first eight games, which ranks 25th in the 30-team league. Last season, the Hornets averaged 15,072 for 42 home dates. The New Orleans Arena seats 17,188 for NBA games.

The benchmark isn't extremely high, and as of right now, the Hornets have surpassed it with their first bevy of home games. However, the attendance this year still sucks. When football season ends, and if the Hornets continue to win, the attendance will be much better in February, March, and April. Such was the case in the '07-'08 season. The benchmark however, will be determined by the attendance numbers of the next 13 home games. While the Lakers, Magic, and Jazz are included in those 13, so are a number of eastern conference teams like Charlotte, Toronto, New Jersey, and Philadelphia just to name a few. Not exactly hype machines like the Miami Heat. If the crummy attendance for the next 13 home games mirrors the attendance of the previous 8 at the Hive, the benchmark will be met by a single seat. Why cut it close?

 It's time to fan up Louisiana. You have one of the best teams in the league, and one of the best players on the planet. Support this team, and help keep basketball on the bayou. After the Hornets beat the Clippers at home a few weeks ago to improve to 7-0, Chris Paul tweeted, "Good win for us again 2nite...gr8 not to have to play the 4th...crowds have been good but can be A LOT better, plz N.O. come out 4 us...7-0!"

He's right. Season ticket sales are good, but the walk up sales are as bad as they've ever been. If you've never been to a game, you don't know what you're missing. For those of you that don't follow the NBA on a regular basis, you don't know what a live basketball game is like.

The energy in an arena is unlike any other. They put on a show from start to finish. During timeouts, and any stoppage in play, the arena holds some kind of performance. Whether it's the honey bees doing a dance number, Hugo shooting Hornets gear into the crowd, a magician, or anything that could be construed as fun, they have it. Halftime is always packed with entertainment, and tickets in the upper bowl are some of the most inexpensive in professional sports.

All of that is for the casual fan. For actual NBA fans, the product on the floor and the game itself is well worth the price of admission. Fan up sports fans. You have an elite product in your backyard, and if you don't appreciate her, she may leave you for the more minful boy.