There's a buzz in Charlotte for the first time in a while and no that's not just a hackneyed cliche at the sound insects make. It's been a long time since both the Panthers and Hornets were playoff teams, but finally it feels like professional sports in the region are on the uptick.
In case you missed last night the Hornets had a heck of an NBA Draft. The team caught a falling star at No. 9 by selecting Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh, then followed it up by landing North Carolina native and former Tar Heel star P.J. Hairston at No. 26, following a trade with the Miami Heat.
It wasn't flashy, it didn't make waves, but it filled needs -- more importantly it's a draft that's being universally hailed. That's important when a team is making a branding switch and trying to curry fan support. For a franchise that did almost everything wrong as the Bobcats, the Hornets are doing everything right, at least for now.
We're all too familiar with guys like Vonleh when you're a Panthers fan. It wasn't long ago that Luke Kuechly found himself at the ninth overall pick. Both players are high-character, blue-collar workers who excel on defense. The critiques of them are similar too, namely that there's not much flash in their game, which tends to dissuade confidence. In the end those guys tend to work out though.
The Panthers are Hornets are strange bedfellows aside from sharing a city. Both teams boast a former player as owner, each franchise has a long-serving assistant who finally got a shot to be a head coach and each organization has a man in charge who worked on some of the league's best teams.
That said, it's a huge mistake to assume Dave Gettleman and Rich Cho are the same guy.
Gettleman is a bulldog. Fiercely loyal and wants to get the job done. He'll put in the late hours watching film on what I assume is an old Betamax player in the basement of BoA. Meanwhile Cho is something closer to the movie Moneyball where he uses advanced metrics to pick apart the game and turn it into a science. Yes, the Moneyball analogy is lazy -- it also doesn't do Cho's basketball mind justice, but it's the best we have.
Then there's Cam Newton and Kemba Walker. A superstar and a star. The Hornets don't quite have a legitimate NBA superstar yet, but the team is a sum of its parts. Both players were college standouts with questions whether they could transition to the pros, and both have. While Newton is certainly better known, the shoe fits there too.
And yes, we could get into P.J. Hairston's improprieties at UNC and compare it to the Newton fiasco, but I don't want to go there.
Ultimately things are getting better. Two playoff teams are trying to build into perennial successes and doing it the right way. The buzz is back metaphorically and literally, now we'll see if the Carolina Hurricanes can get on board.