Last season, the Charlotte Bobcats took a tremendous step forward as a franchise. After losing 120 of 148 games in the previous two years, expectations were low entering the season, but the team managed to go 43-39 and secure the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. It was just the second postseason appearance in the organization’s history, and the improvement was in large part due to the addition of Al Jefferson, hiring of Steve Clifford and growth of Kemba Walker.
Now, Charlotte is hoping to continue their successful run and take the next step in the 2014-15 season. The team name has changed from the Bobcats to the Hornets, but they’re hoping the culture change that started last season is just getting started.
Jefferson, who was mocked and questioned by some when he signed with Charlotte last offseason, is excited to pick up where the franchise left off last year and continue to grow as a team.
“We just need to continue to build off of what we what we did last year,” Jefferson told Basketball Insiders. “We know that if we play defense and focus on defense, we will have a chance to win. That’s one of the things that I did last year that I’ve never done before, just really buying in to the defensive end. I believe us finishing sixth in the NBA in defense was the reason why we had the success we had. We just have to continue to build off that.”
Much of Charlotte’s core has been brought back, but they’ve also made some key additions this summer including Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston. Jefferson loves the moves and can’t wait to take the court with his new teammates.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Jefferson said. “I told them how I felt when the season went over well. They did everything they said they were going to do [this summer]. I think we have got better.”
Jefferson is particularly excited about the Stephenson signing. Last season, the 23-year-old averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Indiana Pacers, emerging as an All-Star candidate. Sure, some of his antics have been criticized, but there’s no question he makes the Hornets a more talented team on both ends of the floor.
“I think Lance is the type of guy we need on our team,” Jefferson said. “[He’ll] bring that aggressiveness on defense, he’s a playmaker, he can shoot it and he knows what it takes to win. He’s got deep into the playoffs every year for the past couple years. I’m really excited to have him.”
Jefferson is also thrilled to see Charlotte adding more quality young players like Vonleh and Hairston. He recently made his way to Las Vegas to be around the Hornets’ summer league team and give the players some guidance, and he plans to continue leading the youngsters when the season starts. So far, he likes what he sees.
“I like them guys, they play with a lot of energy and I see a lot of good shooters out there,” Jefferson said of the Hornets’ summer league squad. “We need to get more rebounds, but I know it’s been a long couple weeks for these guys. I’m satisfied.
“It means a lot, not only just for the Charlotte Hornets but the whole NBA, having a bunch of us [veterans] all around the league come out and support the young guys. Ten years ago, I was one of them young guys playing here. It’s come a long a way. It’s been a while since I’ve been here and to see the fans that come out to support the young talent and the NBA, it’s amazing. It just shows you how big it’s getting.”
Jefferson really wants to work with Vonleh, who is just 18 years old and has seemingly unlimited upside.
“[My advice to Noah is] stay around the vets and just learn everything you can,” Jefferson said. “He is 18 years old; that is unbelievably young in this NBA in this day and times. There is going to be a lot thrown at him. It’s good for him to be around the veteran guys and the great coaching staff and we can help him get through this process.”
The Miami HEAT have broken up and the Indiana Pacers ended the season in ugly fashion and then lost a key piece in Stephenson. Every squad in the East recognizes that the conference is currently wide open, which has everyone entering the season with optimism and confidence – the Hornets included.
NBA Development League President Steps Down
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced today that NBA Development League President Dan Reed is leaving the NBA after more than a decade of service to join Facebook as head of global sports partnerships. His last day is July 31.
Reed, who began his NBA tenure as senior manager of team marketing and business operations in 2004, was elevated to his current post in 2007.
“Dan’s exceptional business acumen and tireless work ethic have lifted the NBA Development League to new heights,” said Tatum. “We thank Dan for his contributions to the NBA and look forward to working with him in his new role.”
The NBA D-League has achieved significant business growth under Reed’s leadership, setting record attendance marks and revenues from ticket sales and marketing partnerships, broadening media distribution via new broadcast and digital outlets, reducing key operational costs and increasing franchise values twelve-fold. Reed has overseen league expansion to an all-time-high 18 teams.
Under Reed’s direction, the NBA D-League has made significant strides towards its development goals for the NBA, with 33 percent of NBA players and more than 50 percent of NBA referees boasting NBA D-League experience at the end of the 2013-14 NBA season. Seventeen NBA teams have single-affiliate relationships with their NBA D-League teams, up from one in 2007.
In addition, the league made several operational changes to spur these trends on Reed’s watch, including rule changes allowing NBA teams greater player development flexibility and a new Single Affiliate Partner program yielding nine NBA/NBA D-League team “hybrid” partnerships thus far.
“It’s been a privilege working alongside so many talented people in the NBA family over the past decade,” said Reed. “I take great pride in the NBA D-League’s success to date, and its incredibly bright future as both a business and a development resource for the NBA and the game of basketball.”
Prior to his promotion to the NBA D-League in 2007, Reed was responsible for advising NBA teams on all business operations, including ticket sales, sponsorship development, customer retention, marketing and analytics. He was instrumental in the achievement of all-time records in attendance, ticket sales, season-ticket retention rates, sponsorship sales and fan growth for NBA teams.
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