The Hornets have a new owner and are about to get a new star player in New Orleans.
Recently sold by the NBA to Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, the Hornets won the draft lottery on Wednesday and the No. 1 pick overall. The lottery was yet another loss — in an historic season full of them — for Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and his team.
The Hornets almost certainly will pick Kentucky star Anthony Davis.
At least that is what the college player of the year is expecting. Moments after the Hornets won the NBA lottery, Davis said he was looking forward to playing professionally in the place where he led the Wildcats to a national collegiate championship in April.
The good news for the Hornets comes after a difficult season in which they traded All-Star Chris Paul.
“Just a first step for us to winning it all,” Benson said in a TV interview after the lottery.
The Hornets moved up from the fourth spot, where they had a 13.7 percent chance, to earn the pick.
The Bobcats, after going 7-59 for the worst winning percentage in NBA history, fell to the No. 2 pick. Washington will pick third and Cleveland fell one spot to fourth.
Charlotte had a 25 percent chance of grabbing the No. 1 pick, but instead will have to take the best player after Davis, possibly his college teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The team with the worst record has not won first pick in the draft since Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.
The league bought the Hornets from owner George Shinn in December 2010 and the sale to Benson was completed in April. The NBA was criticized for the conflict of interest of a league owning a franchise, particularly when NBA Commissioner David Stern blocked a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in December last year, then approved another that landed Paul with the Clippers.
The ownership uncertainty hindered the Hornets, but they were in a celebrating mood on Wednesday after earning the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1991, when they were still in Charlotte and took Larry Johnson.
“We’ve had a lot of good stuff happen to us in the last few weeks,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said, referring also to the sale.
The Hornets also have the No. 10 pick.
The Nets were the other big loser when they stayed in the No. 6 spot. They owed their pick to Portland for this season’s Gerald Wallace trade unless they moved into the top three.
Sacramento rounds out the top five of the draft, to be held on June 28 in Newark, New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said the team would hire a new head coach within the next couple of weeks, but it would not be Patrick Ewing.
Higgins said Jordan had informed Ewing that the team plans to hire someone other than him to replace Paul Silas.
Exactly who that is remains to be seen.
“Patrick has a lot of great qualities as a coach and he will one day be a head coach,” Higgins said.
The Bobcats have interviewed eight candidates for the job and plan to talk with more in the next week or so. A shortlist of candidates will then meet with Jordan face-to-face before a final decision is made.