Fred Whitfield, president, chief operating officer and alternate governor of the Charlotte Hornets, spoke with 610 AM (WFNZ) Friday morning about the team’s upcoming matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, the excitement of staring a new season in the Queen City and the rejuvenation of the Hornets brand.
What to expect at home opener in Charlotte on Sunday
“We’re excited about playing well and an exciting brand of basketball. I think coach [Steve] Clifford has really come up with some good schemes on how to use the new shooters that we have."
"We’re excited to have Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin make their debuts here in Charlotte for their first regular season game. Frank Kaminsky—who we like a lot—is going to contribute. Kemba is going to be Kemba. We’re going to see a new Big Al [Jefferson], 25 pounds lighter, and I think the brand of basketball is going to be fun to watch and I think we’ll be competitive."
"We were right there in the game against Miami the other night, but for a couple big threes at the end. I expect us to play well tonight, get up and down the floor and play an exciting game of basketball."
Young players and depth of team
“It’s exciting to watch young guys like that, especially Frank [Kaminsky], who was a four-year college guy and had a great coach in Bo Ryan at Wisconsin. To see the strides that a young guy like Cody Zeller has made, I think Frank will make those same kinds of strides."
“I’m just excited we have a lot of depth this year. This is the most depth that I can think of having since I’ve been here 10 years. I think we have the most versatile team we’ve had, where guys can play different positions."
"I think coach Clifford is trying to get his combinations down and figure out which combinations work the best together. He’s got a lot to look down the bench at that can help us night-in and night-out. It’s going to be—I’m telling you—it’s going to be a fun year.”
Getting a win on the front end of a home-and-home against Atlanta
“We’d like to play well tonight, and we’d like to win tonight; clearly we want to win at home. Every game in our league is important because, as you get down to the end of the season and it gets playoff time, you look back at games in the season and say, ‘What if we had done one or two things differently, we might be in the playoffs.’”
“Tonight is a big night for us; we certainly want to play well. Atlanta has a great team; they had a great season last year. They’ve got a great coach and great players. But, we’re excited about the changes that Rich [Cho] and Chad [Buchanan] made in our basketball operations staff and the players that they brought in."
"Coach Clifford does a great job, I think, and he has really instilled a great philosophy and instilled a great culture in our locker room. When you have leaders like Kemba in you locker room, and Big Al, it’s hard not to want to follow those guys, and I think all the new guys are trying to do that. “
The business and community reaction to bringing back “The Buzz”
“It’s been phenomenal to see the way our community has supported this team once we rebranded back to the Hornets. Literally every business metric that we measure is up dramatically. Our team store was up 300 percent last year, year over year.”
“We were No. 2 in the NBA in new season tickets sold last year, only behind Cleveland, and we all know what happened in Cleveland. We’re in the top five again this year.”
“It’s so exciting to see Hornets gear all over town. To see people exercising and running up and down the street in Hornets gear is really what it’s all about, and it really makes our organization proud."