NEW ORLEANS — The Jazz, of course, were born in New Orleans.

In 1979, after five seasons here, they left the nest and made the move to Utah.

Now, New Orleans Hornets head coach Byron Scott — whose club plays host tonight to the Jazz — is hoping the fine folks here do not lose their NBA franchise for a second time.

"I think the city can support this team," Scott said during the recent NBA All-Star Game Weekend, which was hosted by New Orleans because the league wanted to help the region's recovery efforts from devastating Hurricane Katrina. "It's just a matter of people getting off their butts and doing it.

"Everything's right here for us."

The Hornets played in Oklahoma City in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but now are back in New Orleans full time.

Whether they stay long term — or will eventually make a move, either back to Oklahoma City or to elsewhere — is tied largely to attendance at New Orleans Arena over the next few years.

NBA commissioner David Stern, for one, publicly maintains he is hopeful things will work out here.

"No one ever called me a romantic," Stern said, "but I'm feeling pretty good about it."

Prior to the All-Star Game, though, the Hornets weren't getting enough spectators in the stands to satisfy even their own coach.

"The fans that we've been getting on a nightly basis have been terrific," Scott said. "They've been very boisterous and very loud and very outspoken during the games. So 12,000-plus sounds like it's 17,000, and when it's 17 it sounds like 20."

Scott said he has no idea what more his 38-18 club — which earlier this season stood atop the Western Conference standings — can do to boost attendance.

"I think we've done it, on the court and off the court," he said. "So, there are no more excuses. It's time for people to get up and start coming to the games.

"That's the bottom line," Scott said. "We've got a great team. You can't say we're 18-64."

Since the All-Star break, the Hornets have sold out two of four home games.

MAILMAN A BULL?: After losing twice in the NBA Finals to the Chicago Bulls, it now appears former Jazzman Karl Malone could become a temporary Bull — a Red Bull, that is.

The Red Bull team of the Philippine Basketball Association is said to be actually negotiating to bring the "Mailman" in as its allowed import player for the PBA Fiesta Cup tournament that begins March 30, according to the Manila Bulletin.

"We actually have three options, but Karl Malone is our priority," Red Bull representative Tony Chua said in a Bulletin story dated today (Friday). "We're still awaiting his decision. I think it will be good not only for our team but also for the league."

The story said Chua expected to receive an answer today from Malone, 44, whose wife, Kaye, is Filipino.

The story admits it is a long shot to lure Malone out of retirement for little money halfway around the world from his Louisiana home, and it quotes an unnamed "insider" as saying it could be a publicity stunt.


Linda Hamilton contributed to this report.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com