New Orleans to move to Midwest Division

The rugged Western Conference will get tougher with the addition of the Hornets in 2004-05.

Originally Published: April 8, 2003
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The rugged Western Conference will only get rougher in the 2004-05 season after league owners on Tuesday approved the NBA's plan to move the New Orleans Hornets to the West to make room for the forthcoming expansion franchise in Charlotte.

The shift was approved at the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York, after a league committee formed to recommend one franchise for relocation to the West settled on the Hornets.

This is the Hornets' first season in New Orleans after 14 seasons in Charlotte ended in a bitter divorce last spring. NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Tuesday that Hornets have the option to switch to the West next season, but they are expected to stay in the East until they have to move. The Hornets are required to notify the league by May 1 for scheduling purposes.

The Hornets' resistance would be understandable given the tough competition in the West, where Golden State -- which went 19-11 against the East -- sits in 10th place. For the East, though, the plan's approval -- trading a perennial playoff team for an expansion team -- makes the landscape slightly more forgiving for a pack of long-suffering franchises. New York, Indiana, Philadelphia and New Jersey have combined to win just four games in the NBA Finals since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls won the last of their six titles in 1998.

The plan also calls for the new Charlotte franchise to move into the Central Division and New Orleans to move to the Midwest Division. It remains to be seen if the NBA will eventually move to a six-division realignment, after commissioner David Stern said in October that his preference is a six-division format once the league expanded to 30 teams.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail Stein, click here. Also, send Stein a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

ALSO SEE