New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson says changing his team’s nickname to the Pelicans will create a bond with the city that could lead to a championship.
The pelican is pictured on Louisiana’s state flag and state seal, and the brown pelican was selected as the state bird in 1966.
“The message of a healthy habitat, in which the pelican thrives, will provide the centerpiece for a program of healthy living, exercise and education to that of protecting, saving and restoring our coastal wetlands and wildlife,” the team said in an emailed release. “The pelican will serve as that symbol.”
The Hornets announced Thursday they are going ahead with the name change. The NBA has to approve it, but Commissioner David Stern has said he wouldn’t object to any name Benson chose. The league is expected to expedite the change at the start of next season.
The new color scheme is blue, gold and red, a departure from the Hornets’ teal, purple, gold and white.
The Hornets have been in New Orleans since moving from Charlotte for the 2002-03 season, although they were relocated temporarily to Oklahoma City from 2005-2007 due to Hurricane Katrina.
Benson, who also owns the Saints, bought the team last spring from Charlotte businessman George Shinn.
“When we purchased the basketball team, it was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve,” Benson said in the release.
“Our region has been hard hit in recent years and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to come back, to fight and overcome. The pelican symbolizes that.”
Spurs missing coach, star
Ailing San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and forward Tim Duncan will miss a second consecutive game after they didn’t make the trip for tonight’s game at Dallas.
Popovich stayed home sick and Duncan sat on the bench with a sore left knee Wednesday night during San Antonio’s 106-102 victory against New Orleans.
Longtime assistant coach Mike Budenholzer will again take the helm against the Mavericks. The Spurs have won six in a row.
Duncan is having a resurgent season after a few years of waning production. The 36-year-old is averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Rubio’s comeback slow
Ricky Rubio’s left knee has been slow to come around this season. So have the crunch-time minutes and the victories for his Minnesota Timberwolves. That all adds up to one frustrated point guard.
Rubio didn’t hide his disappointment with sitting the entire fourth quarter in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Acting head coach Terry Porter said he stuck with J.J. Barea because the Wolves needed more scoring punch.
On Thursday, Rubio said he understood the logic, but still wants to be on the floor more as he continues working his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.