The Charlotte Bobcats are the NBA’s newest team, founded in 2004. The team was established after the city’s previous NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, departed the city for New Orleans, La., and the Western Conference.
The Bobcats play their home games at Time Warner Cable Arena. Their head coach is Larry Brown, and their general manager is Rod Higgins. Michael Jordan is part of the ownership group.
Birth of a team
When the Bobcats were established in place of the departed Hornets, several ownership groups bid for the team. The franchise was awarded to a group led by Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET). Michael Jordan, former All-American guard at the University of North Carolina, became a majority owner and head of basketball operations in 2006.
Since the Bobcats have only played four seasons, one could argue that they are still in their early years. Their first season was 2004-05. After drafting Connecticut forward-center Emeka Okafor, the Bobcats went 18-64. Okafor was one of the few bright spots, averaging 15 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game and earning the Rookie of the Year Award.
In the offseason, the Bobcats drafted guard Raymond Felton and forward Sean May, who were both North Carolina Tar Heel standouts. The team improved to 26-56, and Felton made the All-Rookie Second Team.
The Bobcats picked Gonzaga scoring machine Adam Morrison with the third pick in the 2006 draft. Morrison averaged nearly 12 points a game and made the All-Rookie Second Team as the Bobcats went 33-49.
In 2007, head coach Bernie Bickerstaff was fired and Sam Vincent was tapped to take his place. The team drafted another Tar Heel, Brandan Wright, but traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Jason Richardson.
Disaster struck the Bobcats during preseason when Morrison tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, ending his 2007-08 season. Head coach Vincent began his first season without one of his top scorers, which may have led to his early and abrupt downfall. Expansion teams are generally expected to make a climb from the division basement in the third or fourth year of their existence, and when this doesn’t happen, everyone, from the fan base to the front office, begins to lose patience.
The Bobcats struggled yet again in 2007-08, winning only 32 games and placing 11th in the East. Vincent was fired in April, and legendary coach Larry Brown (himself a former UNC Tar Heel) was hired. He is the third head coach in the four-year history of the franchise.
Larry Brown is famous for immediately improving his teams (with the ignominious exception of the New York Knicks, a team not even a consummate teacher like Brown could improve). Brown has a solid young nucleus to work with. Morrison is expected to make a full recovery from last season’s knee injury. Felton is a steadily improving point guard. Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson add scoring punch. Texas standout D.J. Augustin was picked 9th in the 2008 draft. These ingredients, in the hands of Brown the master chef, could make for an interesting 2008-09 campaign. A forty-win season would be considered a success — and would comprise a franchise record.
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