NBA commissioner David Stern confirmed yesterday that the league is proceeding with its plan to buy the New Orleans Hornets from majority owner George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest.

Shinn has been trying since last spring to sell the team to Chouest, but those negotiations stalled.

"George Shinn has been an exceptional owner for New Orleans and Gary Chouest has been extraordinarily supportive as a minority owner," Stern said. "However, in light of the uncertain economic situation in New Orleans and Louisiana, Gary has decided not to move forward with the purchase of George's majority interest.

"In the absence of any viable purchaser seeking to own the Hornets in New Orleans, I recommended to the NBA Board of Governors that the best way to assure stability and the adequate funding of the franchise would be for the league to step in, and complete the transaction and assume control."

Stern confirmed that the league has recruited New Orleans native Jac Sperling to be the NBA's administrator of the team until it can be sold to a more permanent owner. Sperling is a sports attorney and the vice chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

The Hornets will be the first NBA team owned by the league.

Stern did not say what the NBA is paying for the club but did say the franchise "has been valued in excess of $300 million."

The Hornets are 13-7 under new coach Monty Williams and new general manager Dell Demps. Hornets president Hugh Weber will remain in his current role overseeing the day-to-day operations of the team.

Noteworthy

* The NBA has suspended Clippers forward Brian Cook for two games and Trail Blazers guard Andre Miller for one after a rough conclusion to Portland's victory Sunday. Cook was whistled for a flagrant foul and ejected after shoving Joel Przybilla in the chest as Przybilla went up for a layup at the end of the third quarter. Miller was suspended for "making excessive and unnecessary contact with Blake Griffin of the Clippers" with 7:06 left in the fourth.

* Mike Ilitch, who owns the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, declined comment when asked for an update on his quest to buy the Pistons.

NBA commissioner David Stern said a couple months ago he was optimistic the sale of the Pistons would be completed soon and that something definitive would happen in November. Now, the deal is not expected to get done this year.

If Ilitch buys the Pistons, he will be the only person to own and control teams in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL.

* Center Andrew Bynum participated in his first full practice with the Los Angeles Lakers since offseason knee surgery. Bynum said he isn't sure when he return to the starting lineup, but he intends to play in December. He ad surgery in late July to repair a partially torn ligament in his right knee.

In last night's games:

* At Indianapolis, Brandon Rush scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 124-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors, who got 21 points from Jose Calderon.

* At Orlando, Josh Smith had 19 points and 13 rebounds, Mike Bibby made a critical three-pointer in the final minute and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Magic, 80-74.

* At New York, Amare Stoudemire scored 34 points to lead the surging Knicks to their fifth straight victory, 121-114 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

* At Chicago, Carlos Boozer scored 29 points and Luol Deng added 19 as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Bulls, 99-90.

* At Milwaukee, Dwyane Wade had 25 points and a career-high 14 rebounds as the Miami Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 88-78, for their fifth straight win.

* At Salt Lake City, Deron Williams had 27 ponints and eight assists to lead the Utah Jazz over the Memphis Grizzlies, 94-85.