Possible Bobcats name change at least 18 months away

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comApril 15, 2013 

If the Charlotte Bobcats ask the NBA for a name change, it would be at least 18 months before such a request was implemented.

NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver met with the Observer and other print media outlets Monday during a visit to Charlotte. Much of his 20-minute interview addressed the possibility the Bobcats might switch their nickname to “Hornets” now that the New Orleans Hornets are switching to “Pelicans.”

The Bobcats have done some market research but have yet to make a request with the NBA. Silver said he is fine with whatever the Bobcats decide, but that the team’s deliberate approach is the right course.

Silver said this would be a “very expensive process for the team,” so it’s “a weighty process, not just what ‘X’ amount of fans say in an opinion poll.”

Rather, it’s about whether a rebranding would be lucrative enough to justify spending millions on new uniforms, logos and signage.

Since the NBA owns the name “Charlotte Hornets,” plus the teal-and-purple color scheme the team wore in Charlotte and New Orleans, Silver was asked how quickly a new brand could be implemented.

Even with all that working for it, a change from Bobcats to Hornets would take a minimum of 18 months, the deputy commissioner said.

Silver also was asked whether the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans, still controls the Hornets nickname. Silver replied that the Bobcats wouldn’t owe the Pelicans compensation if they took on that name.

On other fronts:

• Silver is pleased the Bobcats have shown interest in hosting an NBA All-Star Game at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of an All-Star Game returning here,” said Silver, adding that last summer’s Democratic National Convention shows Charlotte has the infrastructure and will to host major events.

• Silver said he is happy with the Bobcats business practices, noting the team is second in the NBA in selling new season tickets for next season.

Asked about the likelihood the Bobcats would finish with the NBA’s worst record for a second straight season, Silver acknowledged growing pains under Michael Jordan’s ownership.

“Michael is still a relatively new owner. Being the best player ever doesn’t necessarily translate overnight into being the best operator,” Silver said, adding, “I can tell you he’s spending enormous amounts of time and sleepless nights trying to be competitive.”

• Silver said the effect of the new collective-bargaining agreement is starting to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots in the NBA.

He noted the James Harden trade as having raised the Houston Rockets without decimating the Oklahoma City Thunder. He said the increased impact of the luxury tax and the more aggressive revenue sharing reinforces that “many so-called small market teams can compete financially and on the court.”

• Silver said the bombings at Monday’s Boston Marathon reinforced how vigilant sports leagues need to be in protecting fans:

“Not a day goes by that we don’t spend a ton of time discussing security issues. … We take our jobs that much more seriously, knowing thousands of people entrust their safety with us every day.”

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