The Charlotte Bobcats were swept out of the playoffs this week, but Coach Steve Clifford says the team achieved something this season it hasn’t had for a long time: relevancy.
Three seasons ago, the Bobcats had the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The next season, they doubled their win total but were still pretty bad.
And this season, they hired Coach Steve Clifford, doubled their win total again, and made the playoffs.
"We had a season that we can be proud of," Clifford said at a press conference Wednesday. "I think we made ourselves more relevant in the NBA, which is a good first step."
Clifford credits the Bobcats' improvement to the development of young players like Kemba Walker and the signing of veteran post player Al Jefferson.
"He's the biggest reason for our season," Clifford said. "You got to know why you win – he's the biggest reason."
Jefferson was one of the league's leading scorers and rebounders, but a foot injury limited him in the playoffs. Still, fans loved that he played through that injury even though he was clearly limping.
But the Bobcats during their 10-year history never resonated with fans the way Charlotte's original NBA franchise did. The Hornets sold out every single home game during a nine-year run early in their history, and you still see their iconic purple and teal colors around Charlotte.
Those are big reasons why Bobcats executives did something else this past year that made the team more relevant – spend about $4 million to bring the Hornets name back. Since rolling out new purple-and-teal gear, the team has already broken several of its sales records.
Rich Cho is the team's general manager.
"I think it's revitalized the fan base, and I know the players are excited about it," he said. "It's definitely going to be a fun opening night next year."
The Hornets will take the court in Charlotte in late October or early November.