The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the league's 30th franchise Friday, a team in Charlotte that will be owned by billionaire Robert Johnson and begin play in the 2004-05 season.
"It gives me great pleasure to welcome Charlotte back into the NBA, since we appreciate how supportive their fans have been in the past," Commissioner David Stern said.
The approval of the Board of Governors, with one representative of each of the 29 ownership groups, was considered a formality.
The new team will replace the Hornets, who left Charlotte after last season and relocated to New Orleans.
Johnson was chosen last month by the NBA's expansion committee, getting the nod over a group led by Boston businessman Steve Belkin that included Hall of Famer Larry Bird. The price of the new franchise was $300 million.
Johnson is the founder and chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. He becomes the first black majority owner of a major American professional sports franchise.
Phoenix Sun guard Penny Hardaway will have surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and will be sidelined six to eight weeks.
Hardaway said he injured the thumb in practice Nov. 21 and had continued playing, thinking it was just jammed.
But he repeatedly reinjured it and was examined Friday by hand specialist Dr. Robert Wilson, who told him the injury could threaten his career if he continued to play without surgery.
Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors could miss another three weeks because of a strained right knee, according to his teammate, Jerome Williams. Carter was hoping to return for Friday's game against the New Jersey Nets, but team doctors delayed his return.... The Mavericks expect to sign Italian League star Antoine Rigaudeau, a 6-foot-6 swingman, on Monday and could have him in uniform for their game Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, Dallas Coach Don Nelson said.... The Washington Wizards activated first-round draft pick Juan Dixon off the injured list.... New Orleans signed guard Robert Pack to a 10-day contract.