Following a sizzling start in which they won 11 of their first 12 games, the New Orleans Hornets find themselves with a sputtering offense that failed to score 100 points for the 13th straight game following an 96-84 loss in Miami.

Suddenly the feel-good story of the first month of the NBA has become a franchise with serious questions, and we’re not even talking about the ones concerning the team’s leaky offense.

The questions the Hornets are going to face in each NBA city deal with finances, ownership and the team’s future destinations.

That’s what happens when the league is about to purchase this franchise and what occurs next is anybody’s guess.

There is no doubt that NBA commissioner David Stern would like to have the franchise stay in New Orleans, but nobody knows what lies ahead.

A popular theory is that the team likely wouldn’t get sold by the NBA until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. At that point, there could be different rules on revenue sharing, helping franchises like New Orleans become more valuable.

Of course with speculation of a potential lockout after this season, nobody knows for sure when a new agreement between the NBA and players association will be reached.

What it all means is a mountain of uncertainty that will surround the Hornets, a distraction they don’t need but can’t avoid.

Before the NBA’s move to take over the Hornets, the most pressing question in New Orleans was the future of all-star point guard Chris Paul, who can become a free agent after the 2011-2012 season.

Now it’s the team’s status that will dominate the conversation, not to mention the thought process of the players.

Naturally, the team members are keeping that proverbial stiff upper lip, maintaining that it’s out of their hands and they are going to control what they can, which is to play hard.

“It has nothing to do with what we have going on here,” Paul said. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to play ball every night. We can’t control that and our job is to come out and play.”

That sounds good, but is it really practical?

“We are aware of what is going on, as aware as we can be,” said two-time All-Star forward David West, who has spent his entire eight-year NBA career with the Hornets. “It would be naïve to think we are oblivious to what is going on.”

Of course it will be.

To suggest that it consumes every waking minute of the players’ thought process would be hyperbole to the highest degree. Yet to infer that the players are able to let this roll off their backs without the slightest bit of worry, is equally unrealistic. Leave it to West to put the situation in perspective.

“It’s like any job, if you don’t have a boss, it’s kind of difficult,” West said. “What if you worked for a publication and don’t have an editor or direction, it’s kind of a shaky time but we have to keep on.”

Give West high grades for honesty. He understands that the players can’t crumble because of the franchise’s uncertain status. Yet West and the players are human and it’s only natural to wonder where your future workplace will be.

“For what it’s worth, this is a good sports town and those who support us are really behind us,” West said. “Right now we are kind of in this transition and we’ll see what happens with new ownership.”

Even though this is in the infancy stage, one gets the impression that coach Monty Williams is already tired of answering questions about the topic.

“It hasn’t been tough for me at all and you will have to ask the players but for me, my job hasn’t changed,” Williams said. “What I know is the team is in good hands and that is what I’ve been told and what I believe in.”

It’s certainly what everybody wants to believe in, but at the very least this has been an unsettling and unwanted distraction to the Hornets.

“We understand the business side of this game and even though we don’t focus on it too much, it does creep into the back of your mind,” guard Willie Green said. “You wonder what is going on, what will be the situation in the future with the team and where are we going to be located.”

What West and Green are saying isn’t out of the ordinary. The players are affected by this, but as professionals they realize their job is to soldier on.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a desirable situation.

And it’s a situation that will likely linger for quite some time. The Hornets can only hope to cure their offensive ills well before the future fate of the franchise is determined.