2001 NBA Finals
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Putting their heads together

Hornets don headbands as a show of team unity

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Posted: Wednesday April 25, 2001 11:17 PM

  Jamal Mashburn Jamal Mashburn and the Hornets are 2-0 in the playoffs with their new black headbands. AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Headband mania has hit the Hornets.

Looking for a way to show team unity in the playoffs, the Charlotte Hornets donned black headbands for their first two games against the Miami Heat. They won them both, and now everyone is afraid to take the bands off.

"There's power in the headbands," guard Baron Davis said. "Some of the guys didn't want to do it at first and you'd see them swatting them off after they missed a shot in practice or something. Then we won a couple of games, so now they believe and they're stuck with them."

The headbands were everywhere Wednesday, the Hornets' first full day back in Charlotte after taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Since the series shifted to Charlotte, and the Hornets will wear white uniforms in Game 3 Friday night, their equipment managers have been collecting matching white headbands for the team to wear.

At the same time, the marketing department was trying to secure enough headbands to distribute to fans.

"We can't take them off now," forward P.J. Brown said. "We were watching film today and that's when I realized that it looked real cool. I was watching us run up and down the floor with them on and we all looked like Superman -- that's got to be from the headbands."

The headbands -- and two 26-point victories over the Heat -- have done wonders for Charlotte's psyche.

It wasn't too long ago that the Hornets were stuck in a lengthy slump. They lost nine of 13 before closing the season with a four-game winning streak, were seen bickering on the court.

Not anymore.

The only exchanges between the Hornets now are chest-bumping, hand-slapping greetings of support.

"I feel a lot of love among this team right now," Brown said. "Did it start with the headbands? I don't know. But we're a pretty close team right now and everyone's feeling it."

The idea to show team unity started before Game 1 , when forward Jamal Mashburn looked for some sort of symbol for Charlotte to wear. Ideas were bounced around, like black socks or wristbands, but Mashburn didn't like any of them.

"None of that was loud enough," he said.

Then it hit Davis and swingman Eddie Robinson, both of whom regularly wear headbands, that everyone should don one. Most of the Hornets were receptive, but they knew they'd have a hard time getting some of the veterans to agree.

So they plotted a strategy to make it work -- they took a small vote, then sprung it on the veterans like Hersey Hawkins and Otis Thorpe after it had already been decided.

Hawkins, in his 13th season, didn't find out about it until he came off the floor after the morning shootaround before Game 1.

"I went into the locker room and they told me they took a vote and majority ruled," he said. "I was like 'I'm not wearing that ugly thing.' But when 38-year-old Otis Thorpe agreed to wear one, I knew I had to give in."

Once Hawkins came around, it was a done deal and the Hornets immediately felt the impact.

Mashburn, who spent 3 1/2 seasons playing in Miami, said he heard the crowd grumbling when the Hornets first went out on the floor Saturday night in their headbands.

"When you walk out on that court for the 18 minute warmup, you see something in the eyes of the crowd when they notice we're all wearing them, that gives you a different feeling," he said.

"It shows the crowd that we're together, we mean business and we didn't come down here to go out to whatever nightclub -- we came down here to win basketball games."

That they did, and the Hornets will now try to close out the series Friday night and advance to the second round of the playoffs for only the third time in franchise history.

And as if they needed anything else to boost their confidence, they got it as practice came to a close Wednesday afternoon: word that Heat guard Tim Hardaway will miss the rest of the series because of bruised left foot.

With a cookie in his mouth and a sly smile on his face, Hornets guard David Wesely said it didn't matter.

"I liked our chances even with him," Wesley said.

 
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