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6 CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Tim Crothers
October 30, 2000
After a summer of healing and dealing, the buzz in Charlotte is all about a fresh start—again
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October 30, 2000

6 Charlotte Hornets

After a summer of healing and dealing, the buzz in Charlotte is all about a fresh start—again

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Projected Lineup

STARTERS

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

SF

P.J. Brown

88

9.6 ppg

7.5 rpg

1.8 apg

0.76 bpg

48.0 FG%

PF

Derrick Coleman

50

16.7 ppg

8.5 rpg

2.4 apg

1.8 bpg

45.6 FG%

C

Elden Campbell

73

12.7 ppg

7.6 rpg

1.7 apg

1.92 bpg

44.6 FG%

SG

Jamal Mashburn

44

17.5 ppg

5.0 rpg

3.9 apg

44.5 FG%

40.3 3FG%

PG

David Wesley

85

13.6 ppg

5.6 apg

1.3 spg

42.6 FG%

35.5 3FG%

BENCH

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

G

Baron Davis

123

5.9 ppg

3.8 apg

2.0 rpg

1.18 spg

42.0 FG%

F

Eddie Robinson

177

7.0 ppg

2.7 rpg

0.72 spg

54.9 FG%

73.4 FT%

F-C

Jamaal Magloire (R)

206

13.2 ppg

9.1 rpg

1.73 bpg

50.0 FG%

68.5 FT%

G

Hersey Hawkins

227

7.9 ppg

2.9 rpg

2.2 apg

42.4 FG%

39.0 3FG%

F-C

Otis Thorpe

261

5.5 ppg

3.3 rpg

0.6 apg

51.4 FG%

60.4 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page tktk)

Driving home one afternoon this summer, Hornets point guard David Wesley stared at his cell phone and pressed a neglected button on his speed dial. An answering machine picked up, and Wesley listened to the voice of his late teammate and best friend, Bobby Phills. As the message tape played on, memories flooded back of the horrific January day when Wesley witnessed Phills's fatal car accident in his rearview mirror. He also thought about the fun times, when the pair hung out playing pool or talking trash about their golf games. "That day last summer was one of the final stages of my healing process," Wesley says. "It's been hard, but I've moved on to another season, and it's good for me to have a fresh start."

A fresh start. Isn't that Charlotte's perennial slogan? Largely as a result of owner George Shinn's thrifty ways, the team has dealt such cornerstones as Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Glen Rice, and the last 23 Hornets to become free agents have not been re-signed, including Kenny Anderson, Vlade Divac and Eddie Jones. Jones, who says he never even received a contract offer from the Charlotte brass this summer, was shipped to the Heat in August as part of a two-team, nine-player sign-and-trade deal. "We offer what we're willing to pay, and if that's not accepted, we have to do what we can to make ourselves whole," G.M. Bob Bass says. "Every team has to overhaul—it just seems like we do it almost every summer."

Only six Hornets are holdovers from a year ago, and with just three seasons in Charlotte, Wesley is the team's longest-tenured player. "I was signed in '97 as the last piece of the puzzle for this team to contend for a championship," Wesley says. "Since then we've lost too many pieces to ever put that puzzle together."

As usual the key question in Charlotte is, Who will replace [fill in All-Star name here]? This season the name is Jones, who was indispensable at shooting guard; when he missed 10 games last year with an elbow injury, Charlotte went 2-8. Wesley, a career point guard, will slide over to the two at times, but the bulk of the minutes will go to Jamal Mashburn, who arrived in the Jones trade from Miami, where he was mostly used as a small forward. Mashburn welcomes his move to a more freewheeling team. "Some players may not agree, but I like it here because I can be a basketball player not a robot," Mashburn says. "I have a chance to be the driving force for a team with a lot of potential."

Coach Paul Silas also expects a bigger offensive contribution from dunk artist Eddie Robinson, who was undrafted out of Central Oklahoma last year and led all rookies in field goal shooting (54.9%). Silas hasn't settled on his rotation, but the front line could comprise 7-foot Elden Campbell, 6'11" P.J. Brown and 6'10" Derrick Coleman, who missed the preseason while adjusting to new medication for an irregular heartbeat. "Chemistry is hard to find when you tear down a team and rebuild it," Silas says. "Fans don't know how difficult it is to start over every year."

The continuous purging of star players, plus a string of off-the-court arrests, has sharply stunted the popularity of a team that led the league in attendance every season from 1990-91 to '96-97. Fewer than 14,000 fans showed up at the 23,799-seat Charlotte Coliseum for each of the Hornets' two home playoff games against the 76ers last season. While the team and the city haggle over building a new arena, season-ticket sales have dropped below 15,000, which, according to the Hornets' lease agreement, could free them to leave town next season without paying any penalty.

Such is the latest saga of the ultimate NBA tweener, a franchise that has never advanced beyond the playoffs' second round, yet one that has finished with at least a .500 record for the past eight seasons. Which Hornets ( Mashburn's and Robinson's contracts are up) will exit after this season? Or next time will they all pick up and move together?

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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