HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Since those dark days not so long ago when Chris Paul wanted to bail and the NBA seized control of a listing steamboat lacking a working paddle wheel, there’s now plenty to admire about the franchise that proudly recast itself as the New Orleans Pelicans.
Longtime Saints owner Tom Benson, a New Orleans native, bought the team and likely saved it from the same fate as the Jazz. General manager Dell Demps has put his stamp on a roster that was routinely playing to a half-empty house and coach Monty Williams has created a culture of hard work.
The Pelicans will open the 2013-14 season with All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, who played very well at the Team USA training camp late last month in Las Vegas.
A new identity seemed in order and I was a big fan of the name change from an insignificant out-of-state insect to the Louisiana state bird. I prefer nicknames with significance. As owner Benson noted, any bird that can survive the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes for a great team name. The new logo is pretty good, too, although there was actually one floating around the Internet I liked better.
I also like the Pelicans’ uniforms the team unveiled at a Thursday press conference. Simple and sharp, they include home whites and blue roadies, both accented in red and gold. I’m a big uniform guy (in fact this guy has my dream job) and I think these new duds offer a pretty classic look (after all, there’s not a hint of teal or a giant cartoon pelican to be found). I like the typeface of the numbers and lettering, which was taken from French Quarter street signs.
However, I do have one beak, er, beef: Why isn’t the name “PELICANS” boldly emblazoned across the chest of the home jerseys? Both uniforms will read “NEW ORLEANS,” and in rather small lettering, I suppose because New Orleans is rather lengthy to strip across the chest.
The franchise put so much thought into its re-branding effort to Pelicans, yet it won’t utilize perhaps the most unique, if not silly-sounding, nickname in all of sports on its home jersey? They’re hard-selling the new team name, the franchise’s new identity — the mighty Pelicans — so put it in big letters on the front of the jersey for all to see.
(A third and fourth jersey will be introduced, respectively, for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season so maybe they’ll address my beef then).
Traditionally, a team’s nickname goes on its home uniform anyway and the city name goes on the road uniform. Yet, even as the New Orleans group was seeking a classic, traditional look on its uniform, it veered from tradition and, unfortunately, “NEW ORLEANS” across the home uniform gives it a bit of a boring look.
“We wanted to make sure that they represented the city and the whole region,” Benson said of the unis during the press conference. “New Orleans does that and I think that was very important to us.”
A few years back, baseball’s Texas Rangers dropped “Rangers” from their home uniforms in favor of “TEXAS” on all their jerseys because, they said, they wanted to be the team for all of Texas. New Orleans is a city, not a region. They didn’t change the name to the Gulf Coast Pelicans, which, if they had, they could have gone with “Gulf Coast” on both uniforms to be inclusive to the region.
The last team to unveil new uniforms, the Brooklyn Nets, also chose to use “BROOKLYN” on both its home and road uniforms. That made sense. The franchise wasn’t selling the old sad-sack Nets, a name with no emotional value to its new fan base. They’re hard-selling Brooklyn.
Hey, it’s only a uniform and a pretty good-looking one at that. But, for me, “PELICANS” would be front and center.