Charlotte Bobcats Changing Name to Hornets Must Signify New Start on Many Levels

Raj PrashadCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2013

Michael Jordan is bringing the Hornets back to Charlotte.
Michael Jordan is bringing the Hornets back to Charlotte.Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

On opening night of the 2014-15 NBA regular season, the Charlotte Hornets will return home.

The switch from Bobcats to their original name brings about a sort of “buzz” from the old days and a reset from what has been a dreadful nine years of basketball.

Re-branding the team will also give Michael Jordan a chance to clear his name as an owner and the Hornets an opportunity to recreate themselves.

Jordan has fired five head coaches and fallen into the draft lottery six of the first seven years at the helm of his franchise. He’s made bad decisions, signing the wrong guys to big money and sending away talented players for pennies on the dollar.

Following their first postseason appearance in franchise history, and after taking over majority ownership of the team, Jordan gutted a solid roster and focused on rebuilding. He let Raymond Felton walk, re-signed forward Tyrus Thomas to a $40 million deal and traded center Tyson Chandler for a group of rotation players from the Dallas Mavericks. He then fired head coach Larry Brown just 28 games into the 2010-11 season, traded Gerald Wallace and hasn’t seen the playoffs since.

"I just couldn't believe it. You know I love the guy, think he's brilliant, but he's around people who don't have a clue,” Brown said in an interview with ESPN. “They won't challenge him. The more you challenge him, the more you get from him."

After enduring a 7-59 record, the Bobcats climbed back above the 25 percent win range in 2012-13, finishing the year 21-61.

There’s no question Jordan hates the standard that has been set in Charlotte. Known as the ultimate competitor, he’s determined to turn this franchise into a successful one.

As their first move after announcing the Hornets' return, Jordan made a splash in free agency by locking up center Al Jefferson, the biggest free-agent acquisition in the franchise’s young tenure.

It’s pretty much the consensus that the Bobcats overpaid for Jefferson at three years, $41 million. But if you’re not a core market (Los Angeles, New York, Boston) or you don’t have a franchise guy (LeBron James, Derrick Rose), you’re going to dish a huge chunk of change in order to sway a key free agent in your direction.

Good riddance, Bobcats. Welcome back, Hornets.

As the Hornets, they notched seven playoff appearances in 14 seasons, but the Bobcats have only returned to the postseason once since returning to Charlotte.

Remember names like Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Anthony Mason, Glen Rice and Kurt Rambis. Try to forget guys like Sean May and Adam Morrison.

A new name is hope. A new look is a complete reinvention of the team that was, and is again.

Block out the time when George Shinn moved your beloved team to New Orleans. Instead focus on the fact that a Houston paper ranked the Hornets, in their first year mind you, a team with one of the best homecourts in professional basketball, trailing only the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics.

According to Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, Carl Scheer, the Hornets’ first president and general manager, described the team’s ability to draw fans with admiration.

"He said he constantly told his staff in those frantic early days to stand back and realize how rare that sort of team popularity actually was.

“Like your first girlfriend,” Scheer said, “your first team is always special. You may not marry her, but you always have fond memories."

Despite a 20-62 record that year, fans showed true excitement in the product, standing firmly against the argument that you must have a good team and solid development to bring in spectators.


Back Buzz City 

It’s with that frame of mind that the Hornets’ brass hopes Charlotte can once again become one of the best crowds in the NBA.

The product might not be the best in the league, but they have a brand they can get behind and a history of success.

The team also has an intriguing young squad and building blocks for the future.

Jefferson just signed with Charlotte. Cody Zeller could be the perfect fit next to their new starting center. Kemba Walker is a young, budding point guard. Gerald Henderson, if he’s back, has all the tools at shooting guard. If he’s not, Jeffery Taylor showed a glimpse of what he can provide from a solid Summer League.

This isn’t a one-year project, but a long-term deal.

Charlotte might not make a run this year or the next. With some good decision-making and a little bit of luck, though, Hornets fans could see the team make a strong push toward the playoffs in a matter of years.