The Charlotte Bobcats never developed a culture that fans welcomed.
Underwhelming lottery picks, all-you-can-stomach blowouts and a neverending head coach carousel made up nine seasons of Bobcats basketball.
For six and a half seasons in Charlotte, Gerald Wallace flew through the air, hit the floor, and dove for loose balls. The miniscule crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena applauded the effort, but it never mattered in the final score.
The Bobcats are often the core of humility in NBA conversations and social media.
Maybe a name change is just what they need to hit their stride.
In baseball, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had a similar path of mediocrity before slightly altering their name to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008.
The Devil Rays were a miserable expansion and finished last place nine times in their first ten seasons in the American League East. They finished fourth the other time.
Since their name change they’ve made the postseason three times in six seasons and haven’t finished worse than 3rd place in arguably the toughest division in baseball.
The Rays have created a culture of inexpensive, young, and well-coached talent who produce better than some of baseball’s most bloated payrolls. Fans have bought into the team’s modern-day spin on “Moneyball” and the Rays have become a perennial playoff contender.
In nine seasons the Bobcats have finished 4th in the Southeast Division eight times. The other time, they finished last.
The Bobcats are expected to become the Charlotte Hornets in time for the 2014-15 season. They will stay the Bobcats for one more season, which will be their 10th in the league.
The name of a team is not as important as its personel. But the Hornets built a relationship with the city of Charlotte that the Bobcats have struggled matching.
On the court, the Hornets played a high-energy, blue-collar style of basketball.
The former Charlotte Coliseum was one of the loudest crowds in basketball and the fans had little trouble getting behind the Hornets. Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Anthony Mason made up a band of memorable faces to put on the purple and teal and they all represented the team in a similar fashion.
The Bobcats have had players like Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson and Emeka Okafor play some of their best basketball in Charlotte, but the memories are sour.
Charlotteans want to see the Bobcats play well, and while the name change might bring more fans out to games, if better results aren’t assured, things will be more of the same.
The Bobcats are in the midst of a coaching search, that could very well decide where the rebuilding efforts of the team truly go. No head coach has had an extended stay in Charlotte since Michael Jordan gained power.
Tomorrow they’ll learn where they’ll be selecting in the 2013 NBA Draft. This can give the Bobcats the chance to add a productive rookie to their young nucleus of players. The Bobcats can finish no lower than fifth in the draft lottery. Emeka Okafor, Adam Morrison and Raymond Felton are three of the Bobcats past top-5 picks, none of whom had extended stays in the Queen City.
The 19-year-old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist rounds out the group after being selected second overall last summer.
It’s an understatement to express how important it is for the Bobcats to strike gold with both tasks. If the buzz is being brought back to reset the franchise in an effort to become a legitimate team, rather than a marketing ploy, I’m game. With a young nucleus and a flexible payroll available, the path to emulate what the Tampa Bay Rays did is feasible.
The Hornets name change may be imminent by the 2014-15 season, but a good team is not necessarily.