Buzz about Bobcats to be made official

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMay 20, 2013 

After months of lobbying, speculation and market research, the Charlotte Bobcats are ready to say they’ll bring back the buzz.

The Bobcats called a news conference for 6 p.m. Tuesday for what they’re calling a major announcement. A team source told the Observer on Monday that it is, in fact, the name change:

The Bobcats will formally announce they want to be the Charlotte Hornets, as many Charlotteans have advocated.

Based on past comments by incoming Commissioner Adam Silver, the Bobcats should have no problem getting permission to switch to the name of Charlotte’s original NBA franchise, which played here from 1988 through 2002 before moving to New Orleans.

This isn’t something that can be implemented instantly. During a visit to Charlotte last month, Silver estimated the league would need at least 18 months to rebrand one of its franchises. That means the Bobcats probably won’t play a game as the Hornets until the 2014-15 season.

The name-change momentum sped up when Tom Benson, owner of the NFL New Orleans Saints, bought the Hornets and requested a more Louisiana-centric name. The Hornets will start playing as the Pelicans next season, making way for the change in Charlotte.

It isn’t yet clear how far the Bobcats will go in taking on the Hornets’ old look in Charlotte. Will they switch from their current colors to the teal-and-purple pinstripes Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry wore here during the team’s debut season?

That color scheme and uniform design was distinctive at the time. Then-Hornets general manager Carl Scheer (who now works for the Bobcats) approached North Carolina-based clothing designer Alexander Julian, who arrived at the Hornets’ look, including pinstripes, the colors and then-pleated shorts.

The team took off in popularity, selling out the Charlotte Coliseum for nearly nine seasons. But a dispute over replacing the coliseum with a new arena full of luxury seating prompted the move to New Orleans.

The NBA replaced the Hornets with the expansion Bobcats, who have never had the sort of fan connection their predecessor achieved. 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 pursuing 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 during the weekend.

Team owner Michael Jordan will be at the announcement, planned for 6 p.m. 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 this season (21-61), the Bobcats can pick no worse than fifth when the weighted lottery is settled.

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