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

October 30, 2000

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?

--T.C.

COLOR PHOTO: NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBA ENTERTAINMENT WALL OF TALL At 6'10", Coleman could be the shortest starter in the Hornets' jumbo-sized frontcourt. COLOR PHOTO: GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBA ENTERTAINMENT TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE? Campbell has found a home in the middle in Charlotte--unless the team leaves town.

In Fact

An assist was credited on 68.9% of the Hornets' field goals last
season, an NBA high (as opposed to the Clippers' league-low
51.4%). It was the first time since 1992-93 that the Jazz didn't
lead that category.

Projected Lineup

STARTERS 1999-2000 KEY STATS
PVR*

SF P.J. Brown[1] 9.6 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.8 apg 0.76 bpg 48.0 FG%
88

PF Derrick Coleman 16.7 ppg 8.5 rpg 2.4 apg 1.8 bpg 45.6 FG%
50

C Elden Campbell 12.7 ppg 7.6 rpg 1.7 apg 1.92 bpg 44.6 FG%
73

SG Jamal Mashburn[1] 17.5 ppg 5.0 rpg 3.9 apg 44.5 FG% 40.3 3FG%
44

PG David Wesley 13.6 ppg 5.6 apg 1.3 spg 42.6 FG% 35.5 3FG%
85

BENCH 1999-2000 KEY STATS
PVR*

G Baron Davis 5.9 ppg 3.8 apg 2.0 rpg 1.18 spg 42.0 FG%
123

F Eddie Robinson 7.0 ppg 2.7 rpg 0.72 spg 54.9 FG% 73.4 FT%
177

F-C Jamaal Magloire (R)13.2 ppg 9.1 rpg 1.73 bpg 50.0 FG% 68.5 FT%
206 [1]

G Hersey Hawkins[1] 7.9 ppg 2.9 rpg 2.2 apg 42.4 FG% 39.0 3FG%
227

F-C Otis Thorpe[1] 5.5 ppg 3.3 rpg 0.6 apg 51.4 FG% 60.4 FT%
261

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

THE BOOK
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Hornets

"With the Pacers and the Knicks having traded their size, I see
the Hornets making a move up this year. They have a lot of big
men who are skilled.... Getting P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn for
Eddie Jones is not a bad swap, considering they were going to
lose Jones anyway. Plus they gave up Anthony Mason, which is
addition by subtraction. Last year he dominated the ball. With
Mason gone, I'm thinking Derrick Coleman might change his act a
little bit and have a great year.... I look at Mashburn and
wonder if he's getting a little shot-happy from the perimeter.
When he was scoring big numbers in Dallas, he was playing more
inside and was a much better in-between guy.... Paul Silas must
speak softly and carry a big stick at practice, because he
doesn't yell a lot during games. He looks like he's trying to
call more plays, run more motion this year.... They're deep at
every position except the two. Every time I see them I can't help
thinking about Bobby Phills and what a great presence he had on
this team."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)