- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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The Charlotte Hornets are back.
The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved changing the Charlotte Bobcats name back to the Hornets beginning for the 2014-15 season during its summer meeting Thursday in Las Vegas.
The Hornets brand became available when the New Orleans Pelicans officially gave it up earlier this year as part of their own name change. The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and the Bobcats joined the league as an expansion team in '04. Commissioner David Stern said Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has been in discussions to get the Hornets name back since he bought the team in 2010.
"We're thrilled to bring back the Hornets to Charlotte and the Carolinas," Jordan said in a statement. "The passion and enthusiasm around this name change by fans in this market has been unmatched. They overwhelmingly told us what they wanted, we listened and we couldn't be happier with the Board of Governors' approval of the name change. With the young team we are developing on the court, the direction of our business and the return of the Hornets name, we are extremely excited about our future. The buzz is back!"
The Hornets led the NBA in attendance for seven consecutive seasons in Charlotte, but the Bobcats have not been as successful in the market, which spurred the movement to return to the name.
"It is so true that it was a subject of conversation for the last couple of years," Stern said. "Fans of the old Hornets would say, 'Please give us back our Hornet name.' I laughed at it initially. But it stayed there bubbling below the surface, and there's something to it."
The Bobcats' website hailed the return of "Buzz City," and team officials said 2,000 season-ticket holders turned out at a downtown party that turned into a celebration of the name change. Fan favorite Muggsy Bogues and other former Hornets including Rex Chapman, Kelly Tripucka, Dell Curry and Kendall Gill attended as well.
"We want to reach back and grab some of that equity that the Hornets earned in our community," Charlotte COO Fred Whitfield said. "They did a lot of great things off the court. They were involved in the community. They became very accessible to the Charlotte fans and citizens of Charlotte. We want to reach back and grab some heritage and use it as we move forward to build a brand with our young team that continues to improve."
The NBA owners handled several other pieces of business at the meeting, including:
• They voted to expand the use of instant replay to include reviews on block/charge calls in the restricted area, better known as the "no-charge zone." Officials now can stop the game to check whether a defender was in the restricted area on such a call.
"You always try to level the playing field and basically get it right," said Kiki Vandeweghe, the league's new vice president of basketball operations. "That's the main focus is getting calls right."
Stern said the move could add time to games, and the league was continuing to look at creating a centralized replay system in which offsite officials would judge replays to speed up the game. He said the league might add a fourth referee to the playoffs next season to act as replay official on the sideline.
• Officials also will be able to use instant replay to review whether a player had started his shooting motion on shooting fouls and whether a foul was committed before a ball was inbounded.
• Instant replay also can be used during any instant-replay situation to assess penalties for flagrant fouls observed during the review.
• It will no longer be considered a clear-path foul if the defender who commits the foul is ahead of the offensive player in the frontcourt at any point before the foul.
• The controversial flopping policy the league instituted last season will be left alone for the 2013-14 season. Stern hinted during the NBA Finals that flop warnings followed by $5,000 fines for second offenses were not enough of a deterrent. No player was given a fine for a third offense last season. The league's competition committee recommended no changes.
• It will now be a violation and an automatic turnover if an offensive player stands out of bounds and doesn't immediately return to the floor. This addresses a recent trend in the league of players standing out of bounds under the basket in an attempt to pull defenders out of position or hide from the defense. There will be no penalty for extenuating circumstances such as injuries or saving a loose ball.
• The league had hoped to have an agreement on human growth hormone testing before next season. Stern, however, said the process has been delayed because the players' association is without an executive director after Billy Hunter was forced out earlier this year. The owners haven't given up on getting a plan in place, but it seems highly unlikely it could be agreed on before next season.
• The board agreed to reimburse the Oklahoma City Thunder part of Kevin Durant's 2010 contract extension, according to The Oklahoman. Durant received approximately $15 million in additional salary due to a change in the collective bargaining agreement ratified in December 2011, but a league source told the newspaper the reimbursement is not for the full $15 million. The full extension will still count against the Thunder's salary cap and luxury tax, The Oklahoman reported. Durant's salary has helped limit the Thunder's financial flexibility.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
13hMichael C. Wright