The Charlotte Hornets have been active since the end of last season in hopes of building a team capable of returning to the playoffs. In just a couple of months time, the Hornets have changed the entire construct of their roster from the Al Jefferson-centric, grind it out style of offense to what should be a superior shooting team. Spacing and shooting have long been overdue areas of need for the Hornets, so it's good to see the team finally make a concerted effort towards fixing those weaknesses.
Whether intentional or unintentional, the Hornets have done this with several familiar faces.
Currently, the roster features three players who attended the University of North Carolina: Marvin Williams, P.J. Hairston, and former National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough. It's humorous to look at these three players while remember the team's owner is a former Tar Heel and that the team has shipped out two former rival Blue Devils -- Josh McRoberts and Gerald Henderson -- in consecutive seasons. Deliberately or not, playing to fans' sense of nostalgia can do great things for your box office sales. Doing so while likely improving the team is even better.
Is this a conscious effort to keep as many former Tar Heels in-state? It's highly unlikely that would be the case. Still, it reminds me of an old boss I had that felt that Minnesota teams (That's where I live) should only have Minnesotan players because...reasons? Fortunately, Williams is a solid player; Hansbrough is a fine back of the rotation player; and we still have our fingers crossed for Hairston, I guess. Really, it's not like the Hornets are bringing in inferior players just because of where they went to school; several of them just happen to have that connection.
Signing Jeremy Lin is another move that increases your audience because of his massive cult-like following. Even last season, and years after Linsanity, Lin commands a surprising amount of All-Star votes to this day. Last season, Lin finished ninth among Western Conference guards and was in the top-five at one point. Lin ultimately finished with 216,000 votes; or twice as many as Memphis' Mike Conley. Yes, twice as many votes as Mike Conley who is one of the best point guards in the NBA. If you're the Hornets, adding a player with such a following has to be incredibly appealing from a business standpoint.
Maybe that's where some of the team's motivation comes from this summer: the business end. We always say that professional sports are a business, and this isn't any business. You can add productive players that makes the team better, but if fans don't care enough about them and you're not contending, then does it even matter? Getting better players that fans are familiar with and playing to their nostalgic sensibilities increases the likelihood that fans will still care if the season goes awry. Again.
Realistically, Hansbrough was brought in because he's 90 years younger than Jason Maxiell and does the same things. Gerald Henderson was finally traded for Nic Batum because the team didn't view Henderson as a long term fixture, and Batum and Richard Cho have a history. Lin is here because he's a capable point guard who can run an offense. The rest of their moves -- Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lamb, and Frank Kaminsky -- fit the team's vision for improving their shooting and spacing.
However, the fact that many of these players will draw in not only NBA fans, but also college basketball fans who watched players like Hansbrough, cannot be denied. Logically adding Jeremy Lin and his fanbase is going to boost things like merchandise sales in addition to what he offers as a player on the court.
I'm never going to kill anyone for trying make a dollar because no one operates a team just to fill their free time. And the Hornets appear to have addressed a couple areas of weakness. Yet, while that's true, it can also be true that they may have looked to improve the team from a business standpoint.