May 20, 2013
Charlotte Bobcats name-change announcement to Hornets coming Tuesday
The Charlotte Bobcats will make it official Tuesday that they want to change their nickname, a team source told the Observer Monday.
Sources already confirmed the Bobcats are moving ahead with plans to become the Charlotte Hornets as soon as the 2014-15 season. That would require NBA approval, but that shouldn’t be much trouble with the New Orleans Hornets giving up that nickname to become the Pelicans.
Incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said it would take a minimum of about 18 months to rebrand a franchise. That roughly coincides with the timetable to start playing as the Hornets in the fall of 2014.
The original Hornets played here from 1988 to 2002, and thousands have advocated a name change for the expansion team that replaced the Hornets here in 2004. The Hornets’ teal-and-purple gear is still among the more popular color schemes in the NBA.
CBSsports.com reported Friday night that the NBA was actively acquiring digital rights to names associated with a new “Charlotte Hornets’’ brand. The Observer confirmed Saturday morning that the team had decided it wants to become the Hornets. A Bobcats source said the timing of Tuesday’s announcement has been in the works for several weeks and is not in reaction to news reports over the weekend.
Team owner Michael Jordan will be at the announcement, planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. That will coincide with the NBA holding its annual draft lottery.
The lottery will be held in New York at 8:30 and televised on ESPN. As the team with the NBA’s second-worst record last season (21-61), the Bobcats can pick no worse than fifth when the weighted lottery is settled.
May 18, 2013
Grassroots Hornets name campaigners get their day
Over the past three years, John Morgan, Evan and Scotty Kent have seen their cause go from an internet petition to a nationally recognized Twitter hashtag to television commercials.
The Charlotte Bobcats are starting the process to change its name to the Hornets, and the trio of grassroots campaigners couldn't be happier.
"It’s nice to be, 'Mission Accomplished," said Evan, a 21-year-old senior marketing major at Appalachian State and co-creator of Bring Back the Buzz. "We’re excited to make a fan group and just be normal fans again."
Morgan, a 31-year-old elementary teacher in Charlotte, began the "We Beelieve" petition in 2010, and said he got about two hours of sleep last night due to excitement, Facebook updates and texts from friends and reporters.
At the risk of sounding falsely modest, Morgan said he understands his position in the conversation around the name change.
"I’ve been thinking about it a lot today because there’s been a deluge of people personally thanking me and us and giving us all this affection and 'Way to go guys,'" Morgan said. "I think we kind of brought the conversation into the public consciousness. It was always something to me that just made too much sense, it probably won’t happen. It’s too perfect.
"I think we were a catalyst or a template for people to sort of voice their own desires. If it wasn’t us it would have been somebody else. It was too obvious."
The three men don't even mind having to wait a year and a half for the change to go into effect. The switch from the Bobcats to Hornets is expected to take 18 months.
They're just happy to finally see their work has paid off.
"I said to Evan last night when this is all going down, in a weird way, I’d like to thank (former Bobcats owner) Bob Johnson," Scotty Kent said. "Because if he would have came up with a better name and a better color scheme, we would have never had an opportunity to get the Hornets back."
May 09, 2013
The arguments for and against Stephen Curry ever becoming a Charlotte Bobcat
Would Charlottean Stephen Curry ever come play for his hometown Bobcats?
During the lockout, when Curry was taking classes at Davidson the fall of 2011, he told the Observer he’s flirted with that thought. But now he’s an emerging star on the Golden State Warriors, and locked up to a four-year, $44 million contract that takes effect next season.
That means the earliest Curry could become a free agent is the summer of 2017, when he’d be 29 and eight seasons into his NBA career. He could still be in his prime then, and undoubtedly his presence would sell plenty of Bobcats tickets.
Curry might be the most entertaining player in these playoffs. He’s had some fantastic games as the Warriors’ point guard (44 points and 11 assists in Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs). He was essential to the Warriors beating the Denver Nuggets in round 1, particularly after power forward David Lee went down with a hip injury.
There are solid arguments on both sides of whether Curry could ever be talked into becoming a Bobcat.
To the Bobcats’ benefit, Curry isn’t just from Charlotte, he’s still of Charlotte. He and his wife own a home in the area and plan to live there each off-season. He’s very close to his family, which has deep roots in Charlotte His father, Dell, a former Charlotte Hornet, is the Bobcats’ television color analyst.
By the tine Curry’s upcoming contract extension has expired he’ll be financially set for life. So where he plays after that could center on where he has the best chance to win.
The Bobcats had the worst record in the NBA over the past two seasons (28-120) but they’re building around youth (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo) and might have four first-round picks between the 2013 and 2014 drafts. So the tools are there to be good four seasons from now.
Now compare that to the Warriors: Curry might be Golden State’s best player, but he’s certainly not their only quality piece. Shooting guard Klay Thompson (who’s 23) and small forward Harrison Barnes (about to turn 21) are both talented and young. Lee is a better post-up scorer than any player in Bobcats history. The Warriors traded for a former No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Bogut, to fill a hole at center.
Beyond all that, Curry is important, if not crucial, to the Warriors’ future marketing. The franchise plans to move from Oakland to a new waterfront arena to be built in San Francisco.
Curry is wildly popular in the Bay Area. The Warriors’ new ownership group is quite rich – richer than Bobcats owner Michael Jordan – and they undoubtedly see the value, both on and off the court, of retaining Curry.
Those owners awarded Curry that $44 million extension last fall when he was working through a chronically sprained ankle. Now paying him $11 million a season looks like a bargain on the NBA scale. He’s going nowhere anytime soon.
So the Bobcats would face long odds in 2017. Certainly offering Curry a chance to come home to play works in their favor. But they'd have to convince him he'd be coming home with a chance to win an NBA championship.
May 07, 2013
Stephen Curry makes Sports Illustrated cover
Making the cover of Sports Illustrated has been the unofficial sign for the past six decades that you’ve made it as an athlete.
Well, Stephen Curry has made it.
The Charlotte native and former Davidson standout will be featured on a regional cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated magazine.
The magazine’s NBA writer, Chris Ballard, has the May 13 cover story on Curry, who has led the Golden State Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals.
Curry set an NBA regular-season record this year with 272 made 3-pointers. Monday night he scored 22 points in the third quarter alone to give the Warriors a double-digit lead against the Spurs heading into the fourth quarter. The game went to double-overtime—Curry finished with 44 points and 11 assists—and the Spurs won 129-127.
San Antonio leads the series 1-0 and will host the Warriors on Wednesday night in Game 2.
Said Tim Duncan, arguably the best power forward of his generation, at Tuesday’s Spurs’ practice: “He’s probably the best shooter I’ve ever seen.”
The shooting guard finished the regular season seventh in the league in scoring at 22.9 points per game. His 27.1 points per game in this postseason is ranked third, and his 9.6 assists per game in this postseason is the best among all players.
Curry is the second Davidson Wildcat to be featured on the cover of SI. Mike Maloy was on the cover of the Dec. 2, 1968 edition.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby graces the other regional cover of this week’s SI.
ESPN's Hubie Brown speaks on Bobcats' search for a new head coach
Brown is a former NBA head coach who is now a game analyst for ESPN. During a media conference call Tuesday he was asked several questions about how the half-dozen NBA teams hiring a new head coach should proceed.
“Too many times a coach’s style doesn’t match the players already under contract, particularly the top three players,’’ Brown said. “The style of play is critical in relation to the players on the roster. If it doesn’t match, you’re just wasting time.
“Management has got to look at (each candidate’s coaching style) and ask, ‘Does the glove fit?’’
The Bobcats are about to hire a head coach for the fifth time since 2007. They fired Mike Dunlap in April after a single 21-61 season.
Six Charlotte candidates have become public so far. At least three of those – Nate Tibbetts (a Cleveland assistant) and Alvin Gentry and Elston Turner (both previously with Phoenix) -- are expected to interview this week.
Brown was asked if there’s much difference between hiring someone with previous NBA head-coaching experience, versus hiring an assistant. Brown said there’s a misconception about assistants that they’re all the same in experience.
“When Chicago hired Tom Thibodeau it was an incredible bonus,’’ Brown said. “He’d been a major factor, running defenses and video (for various coaches) -- 20 years of major responsibility. So when he got the opportunity he was totally ready to be the head man.
“The backgrounds of various assistants are totally different.’’
Brown said part of the challenge for the next Bobcats coach is making this team entertaining while it’s learning how to win:
“The style of play has to entice people to watch it. That people enjoy watching while you’re still working with a young team (buys the time) to improve week-to-week. A coach has to sell that whether he’s an assistant or has been a head coach.’’
May 05, 2013
Sampson, McLemore? Not so different
I’ve never met Kelvin Sampson. Couldn’t care less personally whether he’s the next Charlotte Bobcats coach.
I’ve never met Ben McLemore. Couldn’t care less personally whether he’s the Bobcats’ lottery pick in June.
I bring that up because some of you have a big problem if Sampson even interviews with the Bobcats. Yet I suspect no one would have a problem with McLemore being the Bobcats’ lottery pick.
I get frequent tweets and emails saying the Bobcats have no business even interviewing Sampson for their open head-coaching job. I ask why and I get a diatribe about how he wrecked Indiana with his cheating ways.
Let’s say that’s true. So I ask you, is that really relevant to being an NBA coach?
Dwane Casey became a punch line in college basketball, and now he’s coach of the Toronto Raptors. A pretty good coach, I’d say. If Casey doesn’t make it, it will have nothing to do with his improprieties at Kentucky. In a dignified, patient way, he outgrew all that.
Here’s the way I look at it: I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Sampson to go from being a Native American in North Carolina to be Oklahoma’s and Indiana’s coach. I’ve no doubt he cut corners to advance in college basketball. Certainly not saying that’s OK.
However he’s done really good work in Milwaukee and Houston as an NBA assistant. To dismiss that to the extent that he shouldn’t even get an interview for a pro coaching job seems creepy.
Now, let’s get back to McLemore. USA Today reports that his AAU coach took thousands of dollars in trips, perks, whatever from people who ultimately wanted to direct him toward certain NBA representation. Does that surprise me? Of course not. The AAU flesh market used to turn high school seniors into money. Now the flesh market turns college freshmen into dollars.But to suggest McLemore and Sampson are so dissimilar that it doesn’t say the same thing about the scummy atmosphere of high-end college basketball is just plain vapid.
May 03, 2013
6-and-counting: Bobcats to interview Lakers assistant Steve Clifford
The Charlotte Bobcats have asked for and received permission to interview Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford for their head-coaching job, a Lakers spokesman confirmed to the Observer.
Clifford, known for his defensive expertise, spent the previous nine seasons working for the Van Gundys – first Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets, then Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic.
When Stan Van Gundy’s tenure in Orlando ended, Clifford went to the Lakers to work for Mike Brown, who lost his job early this season. Brown’s replacement, Mike D’Antoni, installed Clifford as his lead assistant for the balance of the season.
Clifford becomes the sixth known candidate to fill the opening created when the Bobcats fired Mike Dunlap last month. The others:
Former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry and four assistants: Nate Tibbetts (Cleveland), Kelvin Sampson (Houston), Jeff Hornacek (Utah) and Elston Turner (most recently with the Suns).
5-and-counting on Bobcats candidates
The list of known candidates for the Charlotte Bobcats head-coaching job is at five and probably growing.
Various news sources have identified four current NBA assistants, plus Shelby native Alvin Gentry, who has been a head coach with four NBA teams.
The assistants (in alphabetical order): Jeff Hornacek (Utah Jazz), Kelvin Sampson (Houston Rockets), Nate Tibbetts (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Elston Turner (most recently with the Phoenix Suns).
Hornacek has also been tied to the Philadelphia 76ers’ opening and Sampson to the Milwaukee Bucks opening. Hornacek played for the 76ers and Sampson was a Bucks assistant under Scott Skiles.
The Bobcats had a similarly wide search a year ago, interviewing 10 candidates before hiring Mike Dunlap. Dunlap lasted a single 21-61 season before being fired last month.
April 30, 2013
Bobcats receive permission to interview Cleveland assistant Nate Tibbetts
The Charlotte Bobcats asked for and received permission to interview Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching job, the Cavs confirmed Tuesday.
Tibbetts, 35, was retained by the Cavaliers after they fired head coach Byron Scott and replaced him with Mike Brown last week. Tibbetts also interviewed with the Bobcats last spring before they hired Mike Dunlap.
Dunlap lasted a single 21-61 season in Charlotte before the Bobcats fired him last week.
Before joining Scott’s staff, Tibbetts was a successful development-league coach. He took the Tulsa, Okla., franchise to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons before coming to Cleveland in December of 2011.
The Bobcats place a priority on player-development and Tibbetts got high marks in that regard from Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The day Irving was named rookie of the year last spring, he singled out Tibbetts for the constant attention and advice Tibbetts delivered.
“Coach Tibbetts would pull me over at the start of the season. I was always a shy guy, all I did was come to practice,’’ said Irving, a former Duke star. “I was here three hours early, getting my shots up because I was so nervous to come in and I wanted to make everything perfect.
“Coach Tibbetts told me what to do and what not to do every single day.’’
April 29, 2013
Relocation vote on Sacramento Kings a stunner if you recall Charlotte precedent
I’m stunned an NBA relocation committee voted unanimously to recommend against the sale and move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.
This is certainly not how things worked in 2002 under similar circumstances with the Charlotte Hornets. Back then Ray Wooldridge and George Shinn were no more popular among the other owners than the Maloofs are now. New Orleans wasn’t nearly as solid a landing spot as Seattle would be this time.
Yet the Hornets were allowed to exit Charlotte, and the only thing Charlotte got was an indication from commissioner David Stern that an expansion team could be in the offing. Eventually, after some tough negotiations on an uptown-arena deal, the Bobcats came to be in 2004.
I got to know many people in the NBA power structure through covering the arena mess and here’s what most of them said: No matter how unsavory Woodridge/Shinn might have been, no matter how healthy an NBA market Charlotte was, owners always side with owners.
Owners side with owners out of fear someday they’ll be the ones leveraging a city for a new arena. The less portable a franchise appears, the less valuable that franchise becomes. Seemingly if the Maloofs are forced to sell only to a Sacramento-committed buyer, the Kings’ value is diminished.
Best I can tell, there’s only one difference between how Sacramento and Charlotte city governments behaved:
Sacramento mayor (and former NBA point guard) Kevin Johnson was proactive throughout the process in offering an alternative to moving to Seattle.
Then Charlotte mayor (now North Carolina governor) Pat McCrory was more reactive. McCrory showed up in New York at the 11th hour of the relocation process, pitching that the city would build a new arena, while stating (understandably) that negotiating with Wooldridge was getting nowhere.
That’s when Stern came up with his split-the-baby tactic: Give the Hornets permission to move, while opening dialogue on an expansion team for Charlotte. Does the NBA now point Seattle toward expansion? Because it sure looks like the money and momentum are there for Seattle to finally replace the SuperSonics.