Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan has upped the ante for 2013-14
With the NBA record for fewest wins in a season, a mere seven recorded in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Bobcats created the kind of long-term pain that Charlotte fans will never overcome. One playoff season in nine years of existence does little to relieve this pain.
Luckily for Charlotte fans, success has often followed franchises after these minor changes.
The NBA does not provide a ton of examples of this, and the city’s famed Charlotte Hornets franchise saw little change in 2002 when the team moved to New Orleans. The Chris Paul-led squad returned to the playoffs after the move but fell a round shorter than their final season in Charlotte.
For the purpose of optimism and the argument that a franchise moving to a new city is not a minor move, that nugget about the 2002 franchise migrating to New Orleans should have no bearing on the potential success this nickname change could have.
More importantly, the team will still undergo another year as the Bobcats, as the name does not take effect until 2014-15. But who is to say they will not go out with a bang?
Breaking the Mold
Such a nickname change is rare. Only a couple other franchises have changed their nicknames while remaining in the same city.
The Washington Bullets made the change, but due to its negative impact on the fans, the switch to the Wizards differed from this recent Charlotte move .
A 1996 article by Jerry Bembry of the Baltimore Sun described a fanbase who “settle[d] for ‘Wizards’” in the headline, as fans struggled to select and vote on a name equally as cool years ago.
Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Wiz, has addressed the issue of bringing back the name, but SB Nation’s Mike Prada doubts such a change would occur despite the need to reinvigorate equally subdued and gloomy Washington fans.
The Bobcats and their owner, the great Michael Jordan, are on the other side of the coin.
Said Jordan in an ESPN article co-authored by Darren Rovell and the Associated Press, "We spoke to our season ticket holders and fans, and overwhelmingly you guys wanted the Hornets name back. And we went out and brought the name back."
Though this contrasts with some of Jordan's struggles back in February regarding the decision, according to USA Today, it is a good sign that MJ and others in the organization are emphasizing the fans now and going forward.
Supporters of the Bobcats, and God bless those who still remain on board, have been through enough.
The time has come to return to a Hornets team that sold out 364 straight games during their strong years and had three 50-win seasons from 1994 to 1998.
Once again, this will not take effect until the season after next. For some optimism for the 2013-14 campaign, however, take a look at the 1996-97 Washington Bullets.
In their last year with the famed nickname, Washington went 44-38 with a solid but unspectacular roster and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
After finishing in or near the cellar of the Eastern Conference for the past few years, Charlotte would happily accept anything close to 44 wins.
Money for Nothing, Wins for Free
The ambitious change also brings to mind a debate over whether Charlotte is reshaping its brand to open up a new, winning era or to increase cash flow. Some of this evil speculation can be attributed to David Stern. USA Today NBA Insider Sam Amick reported the commissioner “laughed at [the name change] initially.”
At least Charlotte fans got to boo Stern on draft day.
Though the commissioner’s laughter suggests he feels the switch is a bad monetary decision, there are other reasons why the change could bring limited financial success.
Rovell mentions in his blog that he does not expect Jordan to see many profits from the switch, citing the “certain cachet in retro flair” that kept the teal and purple gear popular after the team’s move, which now may be wasted on a poor team.
In other words, bringing back Hornets gear and making it widely available hurts the nostalgic value the Hornets brand held.
Those looking to purchase jerseys may want a Larry Johnson or a Muggsy Bogues, as these players were synonymous with a better era of Charlotte basketball. He also mentions the costs of replacing the Bobcats logo all over the stadium, which will have the most immediate effect on potential losses.
This pessimistic viewpoint for Charlotte, nonetheless, could change very quickly.
As Rovell points out early on, Charlotte “just doesn't support a losing team.”
It does support a winning team, as made evident by the 364 straight sellouts and the fact that the Hornets “led the league in attendance in eight of [their] first 10 seasons” according to Rovell.
So if they win, good things will happen.
In all likelihood, great things will happen. The change in culture that is sure to occur from an upcoming nickname change is magnified exponentially when winning is also a part of the equation.
After all, MJ and his six rings certainly prioritize winning above all else, even if his record as an executive is less than stellar.
The Team Itself
While many agree with Bleacher Report Lead NBA Writer Josh Martin that the time is not now for the Charlotte Bobcats, there is reason to hope the team can improve on its 21-61 record a year ago.
Here are the positives. Their move to sign Al Jefferson moves them further away from chasing the futility, and silver-lining, of a lottery pick.
They have historically been so-so picking in the lottery, as made most evident by their selection of Adam Morrison in 2006. Perhaps it is time to move away from this patient strategy.
Their summer league team just ended an impressive run with a 75-67 semifinals loss to Warriors on July 21. 2013 first-round pick Cody Zeller and second-year player Jeff Taylor have been standouts.
They have key early draft picks on their roster emerging into above-average starters.
They are young, and they play in the weakest division in the NBA, though an argument for the Atlantic can also be made.
Moving on to the negatives.
Some, such as Lucas Bowen of Yahoo! Sports, see the Jefferson signing and the Bobcats' attempt to win more in 2013-14 as a terrible direction for the franchise. While the argument is also rooted in the belief that the 2014 draft is the best class in years, I disagree with any notion that avoiding the chance to sign a premier talent at a position of scarcity can be rationalized as a wise move.
Furthermore, Gerald Henderson has yet to be re-signed. Nate Brown of RobertoGato.com believes Jeffery Taylor may be the answer to the hole he leaves at shooting guard.
Taylor is inexperienced, as are Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller, all of whom are likely starters for the Bobcats. In the case of Zeller and Biyombo, however, one of the two will start, but both will see many minutes.
Kemba Walker, the former No. 9 overall pick out of Connecticut, matches up with any point guard in the NBA at this point. His explosion is second to none. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in speed. He is certainly the second-best player on the Bobcats after Jefferson.
Zeller looks the part of a future elite scorer. He earned the honor of finishing No. 1 overall in Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Brendan Bowers' ranking of NBA rookies playing in summer league.
Biyombo is a defensive force who has recorded 1.8 blocks per game in each of the past two seasons, his only two in the NBA. He is not a threat on offense, but he is valuable.
Which leaves Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Bill Simmons' recent Grantland piece on NBA Trade Values omitted the former No. 2 overall pick from its top-50 most valuable trade assets, thanks in large part to a below-average shooting chart courtesy of @KirkGoldsberry and a mysterious curse.
Simmons is on to something with the curse of Sam Bowie, a tribute to the man picked before Jordan by the Portland Trail Blazers. Since the 1984 selection of Bowie, Simmons writes that “13 of the last 27 No. 2 picks” have thoroughly disappointed, while the “12 other No. 2 picks were traded by the teams that selected them within five seasons.”
The only two to flourish for the team that selected them were Gary Payton and Kevin Durant, albeit for a Seattle franchise that no longer exists.
History is against Kidd-Gilchrist, but it is still difficult to bet against his athleticism and championship pedigree.
While this starting lineup will need some good fortune and strong development under head coach Steve Clifford, expect them to come together nicely down the stretch.
Curses aside, I like the Bobcats to finish ahead of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando and Milwaukee all have weaker rosters and starting fives than what Charlotte can currently put on the floor.
Even so, the competition from these five teams should be fierce for those last three playoff spots. While I picked Charlotte to finish at No. 8 in the East a week ago, I will admit the curse of Sam Bowie has raised some concerns for me. That being said, Charlotte should have a competitive year and finish tied or below the Toronto Raptors.
Final Record: 37-45, No. 10 in the East