Heard the buzz? Hornets set to unveil new identity

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ NBA team will announce a change in the nickname of its team from the Hornets to the Pelicans at a news conference Thursday evening at New Orleans Arena, according to a source close to the situation.

The team’s new colors and logo also will be unveiled.

The Hornets’ media relations department sent out media invitations Wednesday concerning the news conference, although the reason for it was not disclosed.

“The announcement will be made concerning the name change,” the source said, “but they wanted to wait until Thursday.”

The team played at the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and returned late after the game.

Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints and purchased the Hornets on April 14, has expressed his desire to change the name to one with more of a connection to this region, and the pelican is the Louisiana state bird. It is also the name of the city’s former minor league baseball team.

The team was named the Hornets when it joined the NBA as an expansion team located in Charlotte, N.C., in 1988. The franchise brought the name with it when it relocated to New Orleans in 2002.

The team’s new colors are expected to be blue, gold and red, which are favored by Gayle Benson, the owner’s wife, and the changes are to go into effect next season.

Benson had registered the name Pelicans along with Krewe and a number of others with the league office, NBA Commissioner David Stern said when he visited the city on Dec. 5 to check the progress of the team’s new practice facility, which is located near the Saints’ facility on Airline Drive.

Stern said then he had no druthers concerning a name change or if it stayed the same, jokingly asking if there were any lakes in Los Angeles or jazz in Utah.

“If (Benson) wants to change the name, that’s fine with me,” he said.

Michael Jordan, owner of Charlotte’s current NBA team, the Bobcats, has said he is interested in claiming Hornets if Benson changes the name of New Orleans’ franchise. Hornets pertains to a military unit’s bravery in the Charlotte’s history.

The team’s players have said it makes no difference to them what the team’s nickname is, as long as they are playing in the NBA.

Nickname, logo and color changes often result in large profits for teams who do so.