Tyreke Evans, supposedly worth two of last year’s starters and $11 million a year, only scores four points, 13 below his career average.
Ryan Anderson is out for one to three weeks with a broken toe.
The team fritters away a chance to make an opening night statement with a victory against a veteran team that’s the trendy choice to win it all.
And yet, on the day after the renamed and revamped Pelicans fall to Indiana 95-90, the thing everyone is upset about is ... Pierre.
To believe the Twitterverse, this is the most disastrous debut since Obamacare.
“New Orleans’ rebranding was going fine until they decided to make a clown murder bird their new public face.” — SB Nation
“It’s not from this planet.” — Caitlin Kelly of The New Yorker
“It’s horrifying. It doesn’t look anything like a pelican. It’s a bird on meth.” — ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser
“Too bad the oil spill didn’t get him.” — BP
We made that last one up. But obviously mascotin’ ain’t easy.
Especially when you’re the new Muppet on the block and replacing a beloved figure like Hugo. Probably on Saturday night when Charlotte visits, the deposed symbol of the Hornets will be in the stands cheering for the team he’ll return to next year while laughing his stinger off at Pierre being hooted off the court.
To be fair, in person, Pierre didn’t look as bad as his pictures. The official portrait sent out by the Pelicans, who had no comment on the matter Thursday, inexplicably makes his feathers look like they’re moldy green.
In reality, they’re yellow.
And therein is part of the problem. Pelicans are white or brown, Or somewhere in between.
Definitely not yellow.
Pierre’s color scheme is remindful of The Chicken who, if there is a Mascot Hall of Fame, should have been a member of the charter induction group.
But the bigger problem than that is, well, Pierre doesn’t have a pelican head.
Most folks, when they think of a pelican, have an image of a bird with a giant throat pouch, which somehow the folks who came up with Pierre neglected to give him.
Maybe it would haven been too hard for the person inside the costume — sorry, kids — to hold his head up had Pierre been designed to scale. But the fact remains that Pierre is pouchless, or at least he appears that way looking at him head-on.
And maybe it’s just too hard to spruce up a pelican.
“You’ve got to admit, they’re not the most attractive birds on the planet,” said Tom O’Grady, president and CEO of Gameplan Creative, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment brand and marketing agency. “The pelican is not going to be confused with a George Clooney type. The whole thing is complicated because, in the NBA, you want your mascot muscular enough to dunk but still adorable enough that little kids won’t be afraid of it. The Sonics had this cool Sasquatch guy, but he scared the living heck out of the kids.”
The Pierre unveiled Wednesday didn’t look like he would be doing any Anthony Davis imitations soon. But maybe the team has a Super Pierre that we haven’t seen yet.
To O’Grady, that’s another part of the problem. Pierre wasn’t introduced to the public until Wednesday, and other than getting down with the dancers and running around the stands trying to get fans to like him, he didn’t have any skits of his own.
“I would have rolled him out in the summer, the same time as they did the uniforms,” O’Grady said. “Get the community used to him by sending him to youth events. Let him get some routines down so that his personality develops. You usually get an initial negative reaction with these things, but there would have been time to work on that.”
It’s not too late, though.
“Have Pierre out and about in the market,” O’Grady said. “Have him show up in unexpected places like walking through an office like they do on ESPN. Halloween would have been a perfect time to send him out trick-or-treating.”
There was no word on whether Pierre was out and about Thursday or somewhere back in his nest, licking his feathers.
And no matter how bad Wednesday’s reaction was, O’Grady said he seriously doubts the team would admit its mistake, scrap Pierre and come up with somebody — or is it something? — else.
Besides, there was another problem Wednesday. In their final routine of the evening, several members of the dance team nearly experienced wardrobe malfunctions in their new outfits.
Now THAT really would have blown up the Internet.