History of the New Orleans Pelicans

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This article details the history of the New Orleans Pelicans, a professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Charlotte[edit]

1985–1988: Birth of the Hornets[edit]

In 1985, the NBA was planning to expand by four teams. George Shinn, an entrepreneur from Kannapolis, North Carolina, wanted to bring an NBA team to the Charlotte area, and he assembled a group of prominent local businessmen to head the prospective franchise. The Charlotte area had long been a hotbed for college basketball. The Atlantic Coast Conference's four North Carolina teams, as well as local teams Charlotte, Davidson and Johnson C. Smith, have large and loyal fan bases in the city. Charlotte was also one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and was previously one of the three in-state regional homes to the American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars, from 1969 to 1974.

Some critics doubted that Charlotte could support an NBA team; one Sacramento Bee columnist joked, "The only franchise Charlotte is going to get is one with golden arches."[1] However, Shinn's ace in the hole was the Charlotte Coliseum, a state-of-the-art arena under construction that would seat almost 24,000 spectators – the largest basketball-specific arena ever to serve as a full-time home for an NBA team. On April 5, 1987, NBA Commissioner David Stern called Shinn to tell him that his group had been awarded the 24th franchise of the NBA, to begin play in 1988. Franchises were also granted to Miami, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Orlando.

Originally, the new team was going to be called the Charlotte Spirit, but a name-the-team contest yielded "Hornets" as the winning choice. The name was derived from the city's fierce resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War,[2] which prompted the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, to refer to it as "a veritable nest of hornets." The name had been used for Charlotte sports teams before, including a minor league baseball team that was located in the city from 1901 to 1972, as well as a World Football League team that played there from 1974 to 1975. In addition, the Charlotte 49ers and Davidson Wildcats of the NCAA play annually for the Hornets' Nest Trophy.

The team received a lot of attention when they chose teal as their primary color, setting off a fashion craze in sports in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with many other pro and amateur clubs soon following with similar colors. Additionally, the Hornets were the first NBA team to popularize the use of pinstripes on uniforms, inspiring similar designs by the Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. Recently, the Charlotte Bobcats added pinstripes to their uniforms, presumably as a tribute to the Hornets' tenure in Charlotte.

Shinn hired Carl Scheer, a longtime NBA executive, as the team's first general manager. Scheer preferred a roster of veteran players, hoping to put together a competitive team as soon as possible, with a goal of making the playoffs in five years. Former college coach and veteran NBA assistant Dick Harter was also hired, becoming the team's first head coach.

In 1988, the Hornets and the Miami Heat were part of the 1988 NBA Expansion Draft. Unlike many expansion franchises that invest in the future with a team composed entirely of young players, Charlotte stocked its inaugural roster with several veterans in hopes of putting a competitive lineup on the court right away. The team also had three draft picks at the 1988 NBA Draft.[3]

1988–1991: Growing pains[edit]

In their inaugural season, the Hornets were led by ex-Pistons guard Kelly Tripucka, who provided instant offense and was Charlotte's top scorer for the franchise's first two seasons. Other notable players included sharpshooting rookie and first-ever draft choice Rex Chapman, a long-distance scoring threat, and floor general Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player in NBA history at 5'3". The Hornets' first NBA game took place on November 4, 1988, at the Charlotte Coliseum, and was a 133–93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.[4] Four days later, the team notched their first-ever victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, 117–105.[5] On December 23, 1988, the Hornets really gave their fans something to cheer about, beating Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 103–101 at the buzzer in Jordan's first return to North Carolina as a professional.[6] The Hornets finished their inaugural season with a record of 20 wins and 62 losses, and led the NBA in attendance (a feat they would achieve seven more times in Charlotte). Eventually, the Hornets would sell out 358 consecutive games—almost nine consecutive seasons.

The Hornets' second season was a struggle from start to finish. Members of the team rebelled against Dick Harter's defense-oriented style, and he was replaced mid-season by assistant Gene Littles following a dismal 8–32 start. Despite the change, the team continued to struggle during the second half of the season, suffering through a 3–31 stretch from January through March. In the end, the team took a step backwards, finishing the season with a disappointing 19–63 record – one game worse than their previous season.

In the 1990 NBA Draft, the Hornets selected guard Kendall Gill with the 5th overall pick. The team showed improvement during the 1990–91 season. They won eight of their first fifteen games, including a 120–105 victory over the Washington Bullets. However, the team went cold, losing their next eleven games and falling to an 8–18 record. The Hornets, who hosted the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, finished their third season with a 26–56 record. Despite the team's seven-game improvement over the previous season, however, Gene Littles was fired at the end of the season and replaced by general manager Allan Bristow.

1991–1995: Johnson/Mourning era[edit]

The Hornets selected Alonzo Mourning with the 2nd overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft; a year earlier, they selected Larry Johnson with the first overall pick

With the first pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, the Hornets drafted power forward Larry Johnson from University of Nevada Las Vegas. Johnson had an impact season, finishing among the league leaders in points and rebounds, and winning the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Additionally, Guard Kendall Gill led the club in scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. The team stayed in contention for a playoff spot until March, but in the end, they finished the season with a record of 31–51. Despite continuing to improve, the Hornets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

The Hornets were in the lottery again in 1992, and won the second overall pick in the draft, using it to select Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning. The Hornets now had two 20–10 threats in Johnson and Mourning, who with Kendall Gill, formed perhaps the league's top young trio. The team finished their fifth season at 44–38, their first-ever winning record and good enough for the first playoff berth in franchise history. Finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets upset the Boston Celtics in the first round, with Mourning winning the series with a 20-footer in game four.[7] However, the Hornets lacked the experience and depth to defeat the New York Knicks, falling in five games in the second round.

The Hornets finished the 1993–94 season with a 41–41 record, narrowly missing the playoffs. Despite injuries to both Johnson and Mourning, the two led the team in points-per-game. The following season, the Hornets finished the regular season with 50 wins and 32 losses, and returned to the playoffs. Johnson and Mourning again led the team in points-per-game, while also leading the club in rebounding. However, Charlotte was bounced from the playoffs in the first round, falling to the Chicago Bulls in four games. Following the season, the Johnson–Mourning era would come to and end, as the Hornets traded Mourning to the Miami Heat for forward Glen Rice, center Matt Geiger, and guard Khalid Reeves.

1995–1998: Glen Rice to the promise[edit]

Glen Rice would make an immediate impact after joining the Hornets, leading the team in scoring and points-per-game during the 1995–96 season. While Rice and Johnson provided high-powered scoring, Geiger tied with Johnson for the team lead in rebounds, and All-Star guard Kenny Anderson ran the point for the injured Muggsy Bogues. The Hornets were competitive, but failed to qualify for the playoffs during the season, again finishing with a 41–41 record. Head Coach Allan Bristow resigned at the end of the season, and was replaced by NBA legend Dave Cowens.

The 1996 offseason was again marked by vast changes: Anderson declined to re-sign, Johnson was shipped to the Knicks for power forward Anthony Mason, and the team made a trade on draft day 1996. They acquired center Vlade Divac from the Los Angeles Lakers for the rights to Kobe Bryant, who the Hornets picked 13th in the draft. The Hornets would later regret this decision as Divac would only play two seasons with the Hornets while Kobe Bryant went on to fame and glory with the Lakers winning five championships in his career. The new-look Hornets were successful, with Divac and Geiger providing the center combination, Mason averaging a double-double, Bogues back at the point, and Rice having the finest season of his career. The team achieved the best season in its history at the time, finishing with 54 victories compared to only 28 losses, and making it back to the playoffs. Rice finishing third in the league in scoring, earning all-NBA second team honors, and was also the All-Star Game MVP, setting several scoring records. Despite the success during the regular season, the Hornets went down rather meekly to the Knicks in three straight games.

The 1997–98 season was also successful. Muggsy Bogues was traded two games into the season, and the team picked up point guard David Wesley and shooting guard Bobby Phills. With Wesley, Phills, Rice, Mason and Divac, the Hornets romped through the regular season, finishing with a 51–31 record; Rice had another good season, as he finished sixth in league scoring and earned all-NBA third team honors. The Hornets made it to back-to-back playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and advanced to the second round, only to again be stopped by the Bulls.

1998–2002: Final years in Charlotte[edit]

The 1998–99 season was turbulent. The season didn't start until February, as lockout shortened the regular season to only 50 games. Additionally, Glen Rice was traded to the Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, and David Cowens resigned midway through the season. He was replaced by former Celtics teammate Paul Silas, who became the franchises fifth Head Coach. The team finished the season with at 26–24 record, but failed to qualify for the playoffs.

The 1999–2000 season saw a return to prominence, with the addition of free agent Derrick Coleman, and point guard Baron Davis, the third overall draft pick. The Hornets tore through much of the season, but tragedy struck on January 12, 2000, when fan favorite and top reserve Bobby Phills was killed in an automobile accident; the Hornets retired his #13 on February 9, 2000. After finishing the regular season with a 49–33 record, the team was able to return to the playoffs, where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. The season, however, was overshadowed by events off the court. The team's popularity had begun to sag due to fan discontent with owner George Shinn's personnel moves; he had reportedly traded Mourning and several other stars out of an unwillingness to pay them market value. Additionally, Michael Jordan, a North Carolina native, began negotiations to become part-owner of the team, but talks collapsed when Shinn refused to grant Jordan total control over the basketball side of the operation. Because of this, the team's attendance dropped to eleventh in the league for the season.

In the 2000–01 season, the Hornets managed to return to the playoffs, finishing the season with a 46–36 record. While they upset the third-seeded Heat in the first round and made it to the conference semifinals for just the third time in franchise history, they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games. Despite the team continuing to play well, their popularity continued to fall, with the team finishing twenty-first in the league in attendance for the season.

The Hornets returned to the playoffs the following season, finishing the regular season at 44–38. After defeating the Orlando Magic in the first round, they were upended by the New Jersey Nets in five games in the Conference Semifinals. The team finished the season twenty-ninth (last) in the league in attendance, a stark contrast to their earlier years in Charlotte. Before the Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs, the NBA approved a deal for the team to move to New Orleans following the season. As part of a deal, the NBA promised that Charlotte would receive a new team in time for the 2004–05 season.

Relocation to New Orleans[edit]

The Hornets began playing at the New Orleans Arena after moving to New Orleans in 2002.

While the Hornets continued to put a competitive team on the court, the team's attendance fell dramatically, in large part because Shinn was now a pariah in the city.[8] In 1997, a Charlotte woman claimed that Shinn had raped her, and the resulting trial severely tarnished his reputation in the city. The consensus was that while Charlotte was as basketball-crazy as ever, fans took out their anger at Shinn on the team. Shinn had also become discontented with the Coliseum. Although it had been considered state-of-the-art when it opened, it was now considered obsolete due to a limited number of luxury boxes. Eventually, Shinn issued an ultimatum: unless the city built a new arena at no cost to him, the Hornets would leave town. The city initially refused, leading Shinn to consider moving the team to either Norfolk, Louisville, St. Louis, or Memphis. Of the cities in the running, only St. Louis was a larger media market than Charlotte at the time.

Finally, a new arena in Uptown (what would eventually become the Charlotte Bobcats Arena, later the Time Warner Cable Arena) was included in a non-binding referendum for a larger arts-related package, and Shinn withdrew his application to move the team. Polls showed the referendum on its way to passage. However, just days before the referendum, Mayor Pat McCrory vetoed a living wage ordinance. The veto prompted many of the city's black ministers to oppose the referendum; they felt it was immoral for the city to build a new arena when city employees weren't paid enough to make a living.[9] After the failed referendum, city leaders devised a plan to build a new arena in a way that did not require voter support, but made it known that they would not even consider building it unless Shinn sold the team. While even the NBA acknowledged that Shinn had alienated fans, league officials felt such a demand would anger other owners.[10] The city council refused to remove the statement, leading the Hornets to request a move to New Orleans. Although New Orleans was a smaller television market, a deal was quickly made to play at the New Orleans Arena, next door to the Louisiana Superdome. Before the Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs, the NBA approved the deal. As part of a deal, the NBA promised that Charlotte would get a new team (which took the court two years later as the Charlotte Bobcats).

In a 2008 interview with the Charlotte Observer, Shinn (who has not returned to Charlotte since the Hornets moved) admitted that the "bad judgment I made in my life" played a role in the Hornets' departure. He also said that if he had it to do all over again, he would not have withdrawn from the public after the sexual assault trial. Shinn emphasized how he was making amends by committing to New Orleans saying, "I've made enough mistakes in my life. I'm not going to make one here. This city needs us here. We're going to make this (New Orleans) thing work."[11]

New Orleans[edit]

2002–05: Early years in New Orleans[edit]

The Hornets opened their inaugural season in New Orleans on October 30, 2002, against New Orleans previous NBA franchise, the Utah Jazz. In the first regular season NBA game played in New Orleans in over 17 years,[12] the Hornets defeated the Jazz 100–75, and posthumously retired #7 of "Pistol" Pete Maravich during halftime. Despite nagging injuries to the teams's starting Point guard, Baron Davis, the Hornets finished the season with a 47–35 record, allowing the franchise to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. They were defeated by Philadelphia, however, 4 games to 2 in the first round.

Following the season, the team unexpectedly fired head coach Paul Silas, who had been with the franchise since 1999, and replaced him with Tim Floyd. In the 2003 NBA Draft, the Hornets selected David West, who would become a future All-Star with the franchise. The Hornets began the 2003–04 season strong with a 17–7 start, but sputtered at the end and finished 41–41, narrowly missing out on home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They met the Miami Heat in the first round, only 3 years after having swept them in the 2001 NBA Playoffs. However, Dwyane Wade's last second shot sunk the Hornets in game one of the series, and that ended up being the difference in a 4–3 series win for Miami.

After the season, Floyd was fired and the team hired Byron Scott as their new head coach. Due to the NBA realigning divisions for the season, the Hornets began playing in the tougher Southwest Division of the Western Conference which included four playoff teams; the team was not expected to compete for a playoff spot with such stiff competition. In a season marred by injury to the team's three all-stars (Baron Davis, Jamaal Magloire, and Jamal Mashburn) an 0–8 start quickly became a 2–29 record (including a one-point loss in overtime to their replacements, the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, in the team's first game back in Charlotte since relocating). As a result of the lack of success, the team's roster was reshaped, with older veterans like Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn traded to start the rebuilding process. The team finished the year with a franchise-worst record of 18–64, resulting in the franchise's first losing season since the 1991–92 season.

2005–07: Hurricane Katrina and temporary relocation to Oklahoma City[edit]

Chris Paul was selected by the Hornets with the 4th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Due to the catastrophic devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina upon the communities of southeastern Louisiana, the Hornets franchise temporarily relocated their base of operations to Oklahoma City in 2005–06 and 2006–07. During this time, the franchise was known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. In these two seasons, the vast majority of home games were played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, while a few remained at New Orleans Arena. Their practice facility while in Oklahoma City was the Sawyer Center [13] on the campus of Southern Nazarene University (SNU).[14] and the team held its 2006 training camp at their New Orleans practice facility, the Alario Center, in Westwego, Louisiana.

With the fourth pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Hornets got a future all-star with the selection of point guard Chris Paul. For the 2005–06 season, the team played 36 games in Oklahoma City, with one game taking place at the Lloyd Noble Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, three in New Orleans, and one at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the campus of LSU. The intent had been to play 5 games in all at Baton Rouge, but strong progress made on restoring the New Orleans Arena made the return to New Orleans a better option. They started off the 2005–06 NBA season better than expected, and the team briefly held the sixth seed in the Western playoff race. Eventually, however, they went cold, losing 12 out of 13 games to drop out of the playoff race, setting an NBA record in the process when they scored 16 points in the second half of a game against the Clippers. The Hornets rebounded and made one final push at the end of the season for a playoff spot, but finished 38–44, 10th place in the Western Conference. Despite the losing record, Chris Paul won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide, and several Hornets were also in contention for other individual awards.

The Hornets made major roster changes after the 2005–06 season in hopes of advancing to the Western Conference postseason for the first time ever. They traded J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown to the Chicago Bulls for Tyson Chandler, let Speedy Claxton sign with the Atlanta Hawks, but filled their backup PG position with free agents Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo. They also inked Peja Stojakovic from the Indiana Pacers. The Hornets opted to keep their base of operations in Oklahoma City for the 2006–07 season. Although the New Orleans Arena itself was capable of hosting the team, it was felt that the recovery efforts in New Orleans were not far along enough for the area to support a full NBA schedule. However, the Hornets promised to return to New Orleans full-time. During the 2006–07 season, the Hornets played 35 home games in Oklahoma City and 6 in New Orleans. The team finished the regular season with a 39–43 record, one more win than the previous season, and narrowly missed the playoffs.

The team's successful operation in Oklahoma City arguably contributed to the city being named as the new home for the Seattle SuperSonics franchise starting in the 2008–09 NBA season (see Oklahoma City Thunder).

2007–10: Back in the Big Easy[edit]

The Hornets franchise returned to New Orleans full-time for the 2007–2008 season, with all 41 home games played in the New Orleans Arena. League officials had stressed from the beginning the desire for the franchise to return to New Orleans once it proved feasible and that they would make a good-faith effort to assist with the recovery. To that end, the 2008 NBA All-Star Game and its accompanying festivities were awarded to New Orleans and a serious marketing campaign was commenced in February 2007. Subsequently, various corporate sponsorship agreements were signed (under the umbrella of the Crescent City Champions), with Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Capital One, and Cox Communications among them. The Hornets largely stood pat heading into the 2007–2008 season. They did, however, sign free agents Morris Peterson and Melvin Ely, while letting go of former first round draft pick Cedric Simmons. The club also extended the contract of reserve guard Jannero Pargo, and selected Kansas forward Julian Wright with the 13th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Attendance at the New Orleans Arena, while tepid at first, picked up considerably in the months of March and April 2008 with the team registering sell-outs in 12 of its last 17 regular season home games, and the final 13 total games (including playoffs). Healthier than previous seasons, the Hornets stormed to a 29–12 record at the halfway mark. Having the best record in the Western Conference on February 3 meant that Byron Scott would coach the 2008 Western Conference All-Stars at home in the New Orleans Arena. Scott was joined by two of his players, as both Chris Paul and David West were selected as All-Star reserves. Chris Paul was nominated for NBA MVP 2008 and placed 2nd in voting. On February 21 the Hornets made an in-season trade with the Houston Rockets acquiring swingman Bonzi Wells and backup point guard Mike James for veteran guard Bobby Jackson.

The Hornets completed the regular season with a record of 56–26, making the season their most successful ever. The Hornets also won their first ever division title, winning the Southwest Division ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. Having clinched the 2nd overall seed for the Western Conference, the Hornets beat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. The Hornets posted decisive wins against the 3rd seed San Antonio Spurs in the first two games of Western Conference Semi-finals, but eventually lost to the defending champion Spurs 3 games to 4 in a tightly contested series.

In August 2008, the Hornets unveiled a modified logo and new uniforms with the colors of Creole blue, purple, and Mardi Gras gold, and after six seasons, the pinstripes were reinstated on the uniforms. The script was changed as an allusion to the wrought iron architecture of New Orleans. An additional third logo was introduced, with the "NOLA" abbreviation and a trumpet.[15] The team also publicly announced the sale of over 10,000 season tickets for the 2008–2009 season, a record total since the relocation from Charlotte.

Having experienced the most successful season in franchise history, both in the regular season and the playoffs, the 2009 NBA season was viewed with great expectations for the Hornets franchise. Several pundits picked the Hornets to repeat as winners of the Southwest Division and as a potential Western Conference champion.[16]

The core players from the previous season were all back for 2008–2009. Swingman James Posey was signed as a free agent from the Boston Celtics in July, while reserve guard Jannero Pargo opted for the Russian Basketball Super League. In December the Hornets solidified the point guard position by acquiring Antonio Daniels in a three-team deal, giving up seldom-used guard Mike James and a future second-round draft pick. More notably, on February 18 it was announced that starting center Tyson Chandler had been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forwards Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox in what was generally perceived as a payroll-shedding move. However, within a day, the trade was rescinded due to concerns regarding Chandler's turf toe.

For the second year in a row the Hornets were represented with two players at the NBA All Star Game as Chris Paul was voted in by the fans as a starter, and David West was selected as a reserve by the NBA coaches.

The season in itself was up and down for the Hornets, and by April it was clear that the record-breaking 56–26 record of 2007–2008 was unattainable in 2008–2009. This was to some extent due to injury problems, most notably to Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic. The Hornets finished the season with a disappointing 49–33 record, 4th in the Southwest Division and 7th in the Western Conference. Paired up with the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Hornets commenced the post-season in a sour manner, losing both of the first two games decisively in Denver. They won the third game of the series at home, but trailing 2–1, the next game proved brutal for the Hornets. The Hornets tied the record for worst loss in playoff history with a 121–63 beating, which was also the worst ever defeat in any regular or postseason game for a home team. They shot 31.5% from the field with 13.3% 3-point shooting.[17] The banged up Hornets were subsequently eliminated from the 2009 NBA playoffs in Game 5, beginning an off-season of speculation on the future construction of the team.[18]

In the aftermath of a highly unsuccessful end to the 2009 NBA season and the in-season attempt to trade starting center Tyson Chandler for expiring contracts, the New Orleans Hornets were widely perceived to be looking to trim the payroll. Indeed, at the start of the NBA free agency period on July 1, the Hornets had the highest payroll of all teams in the league, topping $77 Million. When the luxury tax level was set on July 7, it left the Hornets in excess of $7 million in the tax zone.[19]

Despite comments from the team owner- and leadership about the intention to compete and building a winner, it was still seen as quite surprising when on July 28, the Hornets landed center Emeka Okafor from the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler.[20] While the move allowed the Hornets to shed $1.3 Million of the 2009-2010 payroll, they also took on the remainder of Okafor's contract valued at just under $63 Million for 5 years.

The backcourt had been strengthened via the draft. On June 25, 2009, the Hornets drafted Darren Collison with the 21st pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. The Hornets also traded two future second round picks to the Miami Heat for the 43rd pick Marcus Thornton. On August 12, 2009, the Hornets traded starter Rasual Butler to the Clippers for a 2016 second round draft pick, in an elaborate attempt to lower the payroll. Butler was slated to earn $3.9 Million for the season, but due to the Hornets being in the tax zone, those savings were effectively doubled. Further, on September 9, the Hornets traded guard Antonio Daniels to the Minnesota Timberwolves for guard Bobby Brown and forward Darius Songaila.[21]

The conscious effort to get below the luxury tax threshold continued during the season. First, disappointing back-up center Hilton Armstrong was traded along with cash considerations to the Sacramento Kings for a conditional 2016 second round draft pick.[22] Shortly thereafter, starting shooting guard Devin Brown was traded to the Chicago Bulls for reserve center Aaron Gray and backup guard Bobby Brown was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a conditional 2nd round draft pick.[23] In total, these trades got the Hornets just below the luxury tax threshold.

On the court, the Hornets started the season in a disappointing fashion, and head coach Byron Scott was fired on November 12, 2009 after a 3-6 start to the season. General manager Jeff Bower took over the head coaching duties for the remainder of the season. The Hornets overcame the bad start to the season and were as high as 6th in the Western Conference standings in late January. In the second to last game of January, Chris Paul got injured trying to save an errant pass going out of bounds. Despite returning for a stretch late in the season, that injury effectively ended Paul's season. The lone highlight for the remainer of the season was the stellar performance of rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. Collison achieved the longest stretch of games with at least 18 points and 9 assists (7 in a row in February) for a rookie since Oscar Robertson. For Thornton, one of many highlights was the 37 points (including a franchise record quarter of 23 points) he dropped on Cleveland on February 23. Both rookies made the all-rookie teams after the season, a first in franchise history.

The Hornets finished the season with a lowly 37–45 record, finishing last in the Southwest division they had won only two seasons before. Jeff Bower later resigned as head coach to concentrate on his front office duties. This did not last long as Bower was fired by the Hornets on July 13, 2010, ending a tenure of nearly 15 years within the organization. In between Bower's stepping down as head coach and his dismissal from the organization, Monty Williams was brought in as new head coach. The former assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers was at the age of just 38 the youngest head coach in the league.[24] To replace Bower as general manager, the Hornets hired Dell Demps of the San Antonio Spurs in late July.[25]

2010–present: A new beginning[edit]

With a new head coach and a new general manager in place, the Hornets went through the summer with two vast uncertains hanging over the organization. The first was a prolonged process of minority owner Gary Chouest possibly buying out long term owner George Shinn and thus becoming sole owner of the organization. The most probable consequence of this possible transaction would be financially as Chouest is considerably stronger than Shinn. The second uncertainty pertained to the situation regarding star point guard Chris Paul. At several times during the off-season there were murmurs of unhappiness and a desire to be traded. At the start of the season, some of this had subsided, but the situation is still pertinent, and may resurface if the Hornets encounter another disappointing season, as Paul on numerous occasions has expressed his desire to be on a winning team.

On the player side, the off-season was also used to extensively reshape the roster. Several of the trades made could probably be seen in the dual perspective of a new philosophy given the new coach and GM, and a desire to appease Chris Paul while getting younger, more athletic, and stronger defensively. As soon as the 2010 NBA Draft, this process started. Lottery pick Cole Aldrich and disappointing guard Morris Peterson were shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 21st and 26th picks in the draft.[26] Those picks were subsequently used on forwards Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. On August 11, the Hornets shipped out surprising rookie Darren Collison and swing man James Posey to the Indiana Pacers for small forward Trevor Ariza from the Houston Rockets in a four team trade. In a separate trade on the same day, another disappointment, former lottery pick Julian Wright was traded to the Toronto Raptors for shooting guard Marco Belinelli.[27] On September 23, 2010, the Hornets sent rookie Craig Brackins and power forward Darius Songaila to the Philadelphia 76ers for guard Willie Green and center Jason Smith.[28] Finally, just before the start of the regular season on October 23, the Hornets acquired point guard Jerryd Bayless from the Portland Trail Blazers for a conditional first round draft pick.[29]

With this drastic overhaul of the roster, the Hornets seemingly accomplished getting younger, more athletic and potentially a lot better defensively. Several earlier mistakes were corrected in shipping out Peterson, Posey and Wright. The cost primarily was the loss of Collison and potentially the future first round draft pick. When the 2010-11 NBA season started only three players (Paul, West and Stojakovic) were left from the team that won the Southwest Division just over two years prior. Despite all the efforts toward reshaping the roster competitively, most pundits predicted a difficult season for the Hornets, with only few considering even an 8th seed possible.[30] However, the team got off to an impressive start. On November 5, the Hornets broke a team record with 5 straight wins to begin the season. The team then extended the streak to 8 straight wins to begin the season. The team also held their first 10 opponents to below 100 points. Later in the season, the team tied a club record with 10 straight wins on January 26, 2011. The team eventually qualified for the 2011 NBA Playoffs, where they lost to the Lakers 4-2.

On the ownership side, the buyout by Chouest fell through in early December 2010.[31] Because Shinn is not in a financial position to continue to run the team, the NBA was expected to purchase and run the team while looking for a local owner.[32] The NBA completed their purchase of the Hornets from George Shinn and Gary Chouest in December 2010 for an estimated $300 million. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation who previously tried to buy the Golden State Warriors, said he offered to purchase the team but was "slightly outbid" by the league.[33] On Jan 24, 2011, the state, city, and local businesses of New Orleans came together and raised enough money to buy enough tickets to block an escape clause that would have allowed the team to walk away from its lease at New Orleans Arena because of low attendance.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Montpelier - James Madison University Magazine
  2. ^ New Orleans Hornets Memorabilia, sportsmemorabilia.com, accessed 28 December 2010.
  3. ^ 1988-89: Charlotte Stocks Roster With Veterans nba.com/hornets, accessed 25 April 2008.
  4. ^ Cleveland Cavaliers 133, Charlotte Hornets 93
  5. ^ Los Angeles Clippers 105, Charlotte Hornets 117
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ ESPN - The Mourning After - Classic
  8. ^ Charlotte Hornets (1988-2002)
  9. ^ World Class City, Third World Paycheck. Creative Loafing, 2001-12-29
  10. ^ ESPN.com - Council willing to amend 'new owner' statement
  11. ^ Green, Ron Jr. Shinn: I messed up in Charlotte. Charlotte Observer, 2008-11-01.
  12. ^ ESPN.com: Eye for victory
  13. ^ Sawyer Center
  14. ^ http://snu.edu/?p={E4161849-E79C-4F0C-AD27-33DC07C3ED45}&sc=-1&ni=761&fr=news 1
  15. ^ Hornets new uniforms and logos
  16. ^ "Espn.com: NBA Preview Dime". espn.com. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  17. ^ http://www.nba.com/games/20090427/DENNOH/boxscore.html
  18. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/columns/story?columnist=stein_marc&page=Hornets-090430
  19. ^ "Nba.com: 2009-2010 Salary Cap". nba.com. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  20. ^ "Hornets taking their time". nola.com. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  21. ^ "Wolves Acquire Antonio Daniels from New Orleans". Nba.com. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  22. ^ "Kings get Armstrong for 2016 pick". Espn.com. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  23. ^ "Hornets trade Browns". Espn.com. Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  24. ^ Hornets name Williams coach
  25. ^ "Hornets hire Dell Demps". yahoo.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  26. ^ "Hornets trade Aldrich and Peterson". nba.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  27. ^ "Hornets get Ariza and Belinelli". nola.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  28. ^ "Hornets get Green and Smith from Sixers". nba.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  29. ^ "Hornets get Bayless from Blazers". cnnsi.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  30. ^ "Hornets predictions 2010-11". espn.com. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  31. ^ Helin, Kurt (2010-12-10). "Gary Chouest wants to keep Hornets in New Orleans, so long as he doesn’t have to buy team". NBC. 
  32. ^ Stein, Marc (2010-12-05). "Sources: NBA set to take over Hornets". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  33. ^ Bennett, Dashiell (2011-01-07). "Larry Ellison Confirms He Tried To Buy The New Orleans Hornets, But Was Beaten Back By The NBA". Business Insider. 
  34. ^ Gov. Bobby Jindal praises city for meeting New Orleans Hornets attendance benchmarks but says season tickets are key, Nola.com