New Orleans Hornets Information
Oct. 1988: The franchise plays its first game as the Charlotte Hornets. The team was led by guard Kelly Tripucka, who provided instant points. Tripucka was Charlotte's top scorer for the franchise's first two seasons. The team also had sharpshooting rookie Rex Chapman, who was also an instant scoring threat. For the 1990-91 season, the team picked up guard Kendall Gill in the NBA draft, and got slightly better, but still managed to win the NBA Draft lottery and the rights to the number one overall pick.
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For the 1991-92 season, the Hornets drafted power forward Larry Johnson from UNLV with the number one overall pick. Johnson had an impact season, finishing among league leaders in points and rebounds, and winning NBA rookie of the year. Kendall Gill led the club in scoring, with over 20 points per game.
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In 1992-93, the team won the second pick in the draft, using it to draft center Alonzo Mourning from Georgetown. The Hornets now had twin 20-10 threats in Johnson and Mourning, who with Gill formed perhaps the league's top young trio. It was good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference and a playoff spot, where they upset the Boston Celtics with Mournings famous series-winning shot. However, they lacked the experience and depth to defeat the New York Knicks.
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The next few years were marked by injuries to Johnson and Mourning, though they did get back to the playoffs in 1994-95, only to be beaten by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. In the offseason the team dealt Mourning to the Miami Heat for guard Glen Rice and center Matt Geiger. Geiger and Johnson tied for the team lead in rebounds, while Johnson and Rice provided balanced but high-powered scoring, with all-star guard Kenny Anderson running the point for the injured Muggsy Bogues.
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The offseason was again marked by vast changes, as Anderson declined to resign with the team, Johnson was shipped to New York for power forward Anthony Mason, and lottery draft pick guard Kobe Bryant was traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. The new-look Hornets were apparently even better, however, with Divac and Geiger providing the best center combo in the league, Mason averaging a double-double and all-NBA third team honors, Bogues back at the point, and Rice having the finest season of his career, finishing third in the league in scoring and earning all-NBA second team honors. Rice was also the allstar game MVP, setting several scoring records. The team also spotted the best season of their history, making it back to the playoffs.
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1997-98 was also successful. The team picked up a new free-agent backcourt in point guard David Wesley and shooting guard Bobby Phills. With Wesley, Phills, Rice, Mason and Divac, the Hornets romped through the regular season, with Rice finishing sixth in scoring and earning all-NBA third team honors and the team making it all the way to the second round of the playoffs for the second time in franchise history, being stopped by Jordan and the Bulls. 1999 was turbulent, with Rice being traded to the Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, both Geiger and Divac leaving in free agency, and Bogues leaving the team for good. The team finished tied with the Knicks for the last playoff spot, losing the tiebreaker.
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1999-2000 was a return to prominence, with the addition of free agent Derrick Coleman and third overall draft pick point guard Baron Davis to the mix. The lineup of Wesley, Jones, Mason, Coleman and Campbell tore through much of the season, but on January 12, 2000 Bobby Phills was killed in a tragic automobile accident. His number was retired on February 9, and was a sad note in the franchise's history. The team returned to the playoffs, where they were shredded by Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76'ers. Jones led the league in steals, but in the offseason he and Mason were shipped to the Miami Heat in exchange for small forward Jamal Mashburn and power forward P.J. Brown.
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The Hornets, with the lineup of Davis, Wesley, Mashburn, Brown and Campbell made it back to the playoffs, where they defeated the 3rd ranked Heat and made it to the second round for the third time in franchise history. They returned the following season by beating the Orlando Magic, but were upended by the New Jersey Nets. In May of 2002 the Hornets were given permission to move to New Orleans, Louisiana, where they became the New Orleans Hornets. Shortly after that, Charlotte would be awarded a new NBA franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats began play in November of 2004.
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October 30, 2002: The New Orleans Hornets open their inaugural season in New Orleans against former New Orleans NBA team the Utah Jazz; "Pistol" Pete Maravich has his number retired during halftime. First NBA game played in New Orleans in 23 years. They qualified for the playoffs for the fourth straight year in 2002-03, but were beaten by Philadelphia again, where Iverson again shredded them, this time dropping 55 points in one game. After the season, the team decided to move in a different direction and allowed the contract of head coach Paul Silas to expire. He was replaced by Tim Floyd, and the Hornets got off to a 17-7 start, but the team reverted to form and finished 41-41, narrowly missing out on home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They drew the Miami Heat, but Dwyane Wade's last second shot sunk the Hornets in game 1 of the series. The teams ended up winning all their respective home games after that, but Wade's shot was the difference even though the series went 7 games, the Heat winning 4-3. An 85-77 win in game 7 moved the Heat on to round two, but more importantly, set the stage for the summer's acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. Without the shot by Wade, the 2004-05 NBA season might have been altered with Shaq perhaps going to a different team and the Heat not being bona fide NBA title contenders.
After the season, Floyd was fired and the team hired Byron Scott to be their head coach. The team was expected to compete for a playoff spot in the tougher Western Conference, but an 0-8 start turned into a 2-29 start, which started a watch of how bad their record could get, threatening the Philadelphia 76ers' record of a 9-73 season. The team performed better in January and February, but the season was essentially over before it started with the horrendous start. Despite the lack of success, the team's roster was reshaped, with older veterans Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn traded to facilitate a rebuilding process. The team found better support for their younger, scrappier players than they did last year when the team was better on the floor