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History of the New Orleans Pelicans

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History of the New Orleans Pelicans

This article is about the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association. The New Orleans Pelicans are an official team in the National Basketball Association(NBA). Until the conclusion of the Pelicans' 2012-2013 regular season the team was named the New Orleans Hornets. The name change came along with the purchase of the team by its new owner, Tom Benson.Early on in the purchasing process, Benson made it clear that he intended to change the name to something more "local". Inspiration for the name change is given to Louisiana's state bird, the brown pelican. The Pelicans have an overall franchise record of 498-552, along with six playoff qualifications. Their achievements include one playoff series victory and one division title. In recent years, the Pelicans have held the names of some of the NBA's brightest rising stars on its roster.


  • Roots 1
    • Attempts to Bring Basketball to New Orleans 1.1
    • George Shinn: The Hornets Move to New Orleans 1.2
  • Early History: Struggles and Disasters 2
    • 2002–05: Inaugural Season, Pre-Katrina 2.1
    • 2005–07: Hurricane Katrina and temporary relocation to Oklahoma City 2.2
  • Return to New Orleans 3
    • 2007–10: Back in the Big Easy 3.1
    • 2010–2012: End of the Chris Paul Era and League Ownership 3.2
  • A New Name and a New Era 4
    • 2011-Present: Anthony Davis Era 4.1
  • References 5


Attempts to Bring Basketball to New Orleans

After the New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City in 1979, the city had been left without a basketball franchise. In 1994, the Minnesota Timberwolves were suffering financially and the ownership group almost purchased the team and moved it to New Orleans. The Timberwolves would have played at the Louisiana Superdome until a new arena was constructed. Financial problems, however, led to the NBA blocking the move. New Orleans would attempt to chase the Vancouver Grizzlies before landing another team.

George Shinn: The Hornets Move to New Orleans

In 1987, the NBA awarded an expansion team to Charlotte named the Charlotte Hornets. This team was given to George Shinn and a few other businessmen. While the Hornets continued to put a competitive team on the court, the team's attendance fell dramatically. Many attributed this lapse in popularity to the owner George Shinn, who was slowly becoming despised by the people of the city.[1] In 1997, a Charlotte woman claimed that Shinn had raped her, and the resulting trial severely tarnished his reputation in the city. The consensus was that while Charlotte was as basketball-crazy as ever, fans took out their anger at Shinn on the team. Shinn had also become discontented with the Coliseum, which, although considered state-of-the-art when it opened, has by then been considered obsolete due to a limited number of luxury boxes. On March 26, 2001, both the Hornets and the Vancouver Grizzlies applied for relocation to Memphis, Tennessee,[2] which was eventually won by the Grizzlies. Eventually, Shinn issued an ultimatum: unless the city built a new arena at no cost to him, the Hornets would leave town. The city initially refused, leading Shinn to consider moving the team to either Norfolk, Louisville, St. Louis, or Memphis. Of the cities in the running, only St. Louis was a larger media market than Charlotte at the time; also, it was the only one of the four to have previously had an NBA franchise — the St. Louis Hawks, who moved to Atlanta in 1968.

Finally, a new arena in Uptown, what would eventually become the Charlotte Bobcats Arena, later the Time Warner Cable Arena, was included in a non-binding referendum for a larger arts-related package, and Shinn withdrew his application to move the team. Polls showed the referendum on its way to passage. However, just days before the referendum, Mayor Pat McCrory vetoed a living wage ordinance. The veto prompted many of the city's black ministers to oppose the referendum; they felt it was immoral for the city to build a new arena when city employees weren't paid enough to make a living.[3] After the failed referendum, city leaders devised a plan to build a new arena in a way that did not require voter support, but made it known that they would not even consider building it unless Shinn sold the team. While even the NBA acknowledged that Shinn had alienated fans, league officials felt such a demand would anger other owners.[4] The city council refused to remove the statement, leading the Hornets to request a move to New Orleans - a move that would eventually return the NBA to that city since the Jazz relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1979. Although New Orleans was a smaller television market, a deal was quickly made to play at the New Orleans Arena, next door to the Louisiana Superdome. Before the Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs, the NBA approved the deal. As part of a deal, the NBA promised that Charlotte would get a new team, which took the court two years later as the Charlotte Bobcats.

In a 2008 interview with the Charlotte Observer, Shinn, who has not returned to Charlotte since the Hornets moved, admitted that the "bad judgment I made in my life" played a role in the Hornets' departure. He also said that if he had it to do all over again, he would not have withdrawn from the public after the sexual assault trial. Shinn emphasized how he was making amends by committing to New Orleans saying, "I've made enough mistakes in my life. I'm not going to make one here. This city needs us here. We're going to make this (New Orleans) thing work."[5]

Early History: Struggles and Disasters

2002–05: Inaugural Season, Pre-Katrina

The Hornets opened their inaugural season in New Orleans on October 30, 2002, against New Orleans' original NBA franchise, the now-Utah Jazz. In the first regular season NBA game played in New Orleans in over 17 years,[6] the Hornets defeated the Jazz 100–75, and posthumously retired #7 of "Pistol" Pete Maravich during halftime. Despite nagging injuries to the teams's starting Point guard, Baron Davis, the Hornets finished the season with a 47–35 record, allowing the franchise to qualify for the playoffs. They were defeated by Philadelphia, however, 4 games to 2 in the first round.

Following the season, the team unexpectedly fired head coach Paul Silas and replaced him with Tim Floyd. In the 2003 NBA Draft, the Hornets selected David West, who would become a future All-Star with the franchise. The Hornets began the 2003–04 season strong with a 17–7 start, but sputtered at the end and finished 41–41, narrowly missing out on home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They met the Miami Heat in the first round, only 3 years after having swept them in the 2001 NBA Playoffs. However, Dwyane Wade's last second shot sunk the Hornets in game one of the series, and that ended up being the difference in a 4–3 series win for Miami.

After the season, Floyd was fired and the team hired Byron Scott as their new head coach. Due to the NBA realigning divisions for the season, the Hornets began playing in the tougher Southwest Division of the Western Conference which included four playoff teams; the team was not expected to compete for a playoff spot with such stiff competition. In a season marred by injury to the team's three all-stars (Baron Davis, Jamaal Magloire, and Jamal Mashburn) an 0–8 start quickly became a 2–29 record (including a one-point loss in overtime to the then-expansion Charlotte Bobcats). As a result of the lack of success, the team's roster was reshaped, with older veterans like Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn traded to start the rebuilding process. The team finished the year with a franchise-worst record of 18–64 and their first losing season in Franchise History

2005–07: Hurricane Katrina and temporary relocation to Oklahoma City

Chris Paul was selected by the Hornets with the 4th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Due to the catastrophic devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina upon the communities of southeastern Louisiana, the Hornets franchise temporarily relocated their base of operations to Oklahoma City in 2005–06 and 2006–07. During this time, the franchise was known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. In these two seasons, the vast majority of home games were played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, while a few remained at New Orleans Arena. Their practice facility while in Oklahoma City was the Sawyer Center [7] on the campus of Southern Nazarene University (SNU).[8] and the team held its 2006 training camp at their New Orleans practice facility, the Alario Center, in Westwego, Louisiana.

With the fourth pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Hornets got a future all-star with the selection of point guard Chris Paul. For the 2005–06 season, the team played 36 games in Oklahoma City, with one game taking place at the Lloyd Noble Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, three in New Orleans, and one at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the campus of LSU. The intent had been to play 5 games in all at Baton Rouge, but strong progress made on restoring the New Orleans Arena made the return to New Orleans a better option. They started off the 2005–06 NBA season better than expected, and the team briefly held the sixth seed in the Western playoff race. Eventually, however, they went cold, losing 12 out of 13 games to drop out of the playoff race, setting an NBA record in the process when they scored 16 points in the second half of a game against the Clippers. The Hornets rebounded and made one final push at the end of the season for a playoff spot, but finished 38–44, 10th place in the Western Conference. Despite the losing record, Chris Paul won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide, and several Hornets were also in contention for other individual awards.

The Hornets made major roster changes after the 2005–06 season in hopes of advancing to the Western Conference postseason for the first time ever. They traded J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown to the Chicago Bulls for Tyson Chandler, let Speedy Claxton sign with the Atlanta Hawks, but filled their backup PG position with free agents Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo. They also inked Peja Stojakovic from the Indiana Pacers. The Hornets opted to keep their base of operations in Oklahoma City for the 2006–07 season. Although the New Orleans Arena itself was capable of hosting the team, it was felt that the recovery efforts in New Orleans were not far along enough for the area to support a full NBA schedule. However, the Hornets promised to return to New Orleans full-time. During the 2006–07 season, the Hornets played 35 home games in Oklahoma City and 6 in New Orleans. The team finished the regular season with a 39–43 record, one more win than the previous season, and narrowly missed the playoffs.

The team's successful operation in Oklahoma City arguably contributed to the city being named as the new home for the Seattle SuperSonics franchise starting in the 2008–09 NBA season (see Oklahoma City Thunder).

Return to New Orleans

2007–10: Back in the Big Easy

The Hornets franchise returned to New Orleans full-time for the 2007–2008 season, with all 41 home games played in the New Orleans Arena. League officials had stressed from the beginning the desire for the franchise to return to New Orleans once it proved feasible and that they would make a good-faith effort to assist with the recovery. To that end, the 2008 NBA All-Star Game and its accompanying festivities were awarded to New Orleans and a serious marketing campaign was commenced in February 2007. Subsequently, various corporate sponsorship agreements were signed (under the umbrella of the Crescent City Champions), with Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Capital One, and Cox Communications among them. The Hornets largely stood pat heading into the 2007–2008 season. They did, however, sign free agents Morris Peterson and Melvin Ely, while letting go of former first round draft pick Cedric Simmons. The club also extended the contract of reserve guard Jannero Pargo, and selected Kansas forward Julian Wright with the 13th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Attendance at the New Orleans Arena, while tepid at first, picked up considerably in the months of March and April 2008 with the team registering sell-outs in 12 of its last 17 regular season home games, and the final 13 total games (including playoffs). Healthier than previous seasons, the Hornets stormed to a 29–12 record at the halfway mark. Having the best record in the Western Conference on February 3 meant that Byron Scott would coach the 2008 Western Conference All-Stars at home in the New Orleans Arena. Scott was joined by two of his players, as both Chris Paul and David West were selected as All-Star reserves. Chris Paul was nominated for NBA MVP 2008 and placed 2nd in voting. On February 21 the Hornets made an in-season trade with the Houston Rockets acquiring swingman Bonzi Wells and backup point guard Mike James for veteran guard Bobby Jackson.

The Hornets completed the regular season with a record of 56–26, making the season their most successful ever. The Hornets also won their first ever division title, winning the Southwest Division ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. Having clinched the 2nd overall seed for the Western Conference, the Hornets beat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. The Hornets posted decisive wins against the 3rd seed San Antonio Spurs in the first two games of Western Conference Semi-finals, but eventually lost to the defending champion Spurs 3 games to 4 in a tightly contested series.

In August 2008, the Hornets unveiled a modified logo and new uniforms with the colors of Creole blue, purple, and Mardi Gras gold, and after six seasons, the pinstripes were reinstated on the uniforms. The script was changed as an allusion to the wrought iron architecture of New Orleans. An additional third logo was introduced, with the "NOLA" abbreviation and a trumpet.[9] The team also publicly announced the sale of over 10,000 season tickets for the 2008–2009 season, a record total since the relocation from Charlotte (now officially a team record).

Having experienced the most successful season in franchise history, both in the regular season and the playoffs, the 2009 NBA season was viewed with great expectations for the Hornets franchise. Several pundits picked the Hornets to repeat as winners of the Southwest Division and as a potential Western Conference champion.[10]

The core players from the previous season were all back for 2008–2009. Swingman James Posey was signed as a free agent from the Boston Celtics in July, while reserve guard Jannero Pargo opted for the Russian Basketball Super League. In December the Hornets solidified the point guard position by acquiring Antonio Daniels in a three-team deal, giving up seldom-used guard Mike James and a future second-round draft pick. More notably, on February 18 it was announced that starting center Tyson Chandler had been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forwards Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox in what was generally perceived as a payroll-shedding move. However, within a day, the trade was rescinded due to concerns regarding Chandler's turf toe.[11]

For the second year in a row the Hornets were represented with two players at the NBA All Star Game as Chris Paul was voted in by the fans as a starter, and David West was selected as a reserve by the NBA coaches.

The season in itself was up and down for the Hornets, and by April it was clear that the record-breaking 56–26 record of 2007–2008 was unattainable in 2008–2009. This was to some extent due to injury problems, most notably to Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic. The Hornets finished the season with a disappointing 49–33 record, 4th in the Southwest Division and 7th in the Western Conference. Paired up with the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Hornets commenced the post-season in a sour manner, losing both of the first two games decisively in Denver. They won the third game of the series at home, but trailing 2–1, the next game proved brutal for the Hornets. The Hornets tied the record for worst loss in playoff history with a 121–63 beating, which was also the worst ever defeat in any regular or postseason game for a home team. They shot 31.5% from the field with 13.3% 3-point shooting.[12] The banged up Hornets were subsequently eliminated from the 2009 NBA playoffs in Game 5, beginning an off-season of speculation on the future construction of the team.[13]

In the aftermath of a highly unsuccessful end to the 2009 NBA season and the in-season attempt to trade starting center Tyson Chandler for expiring contracts, the New Orleans Hornets were widely perceived to be looking to trim the payroll. Indeed, at the start of the NBA free agency period on July 1, the Hornets had the highest payroll of all teams in the league, topping $77 Million. When the luxury tax level was set on July 7, it left the Hornets in excess of $7 million in the tax zone.[14]

Despite comments from the team owner- and leadership about the intention to compete and building a winner, it was still seen as quite surprising when on July 28, the Hornets landed center Emeka Okafor from the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler.[15] While the move allowed the Hornets to shed $1.3 Million of the 2009-2010 payroll, they also took on the remainder of Okafor's contract valued at just under $63 Million for 5 years.

The backcourt had been strengthened via the draft. On June 25, 2009, the Hornets drafted Darren Collison with the 21st pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. The Hornets also traded two future second round picks to the Miami Heat for the 43rd pick Marcus Thornton. On August 12, 2009, the Hornets traded starter Rasual Butler to the Clippers for a 2016 second round draft pick, in an elaborate attempt to lower the payroll. Butler was slated to earn $3.9 Million for the season, but due to the Hornets being in the tax zone, those savings were effectively doubled. Further, on September 9, the Hornets traded guard Antonio Daniels to the Minnesota Timberwolves for guard Bobby Brown and forward Darius Songaila.[16]

The conscious effort to get below the luxury tax threshold continued during the season. First, disappointing back-up center Hilton Armstrong was traded along with cash considerations to the Sacramento Kings for a conditional 2016 second round draft pick.[17] Shortly thereafter, starting shooting guard Devin Brown was traded to the Chicago Bulls for reserve center Aaron Gray and backup guard Bobby Brown was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a conditional 2nd round draft pick.[18] In total, these trades got the Hornets just below the luxury tax threshold.

On the court, the Hornets started the season in a disappointing fashion, and head coach Byron Scott was fired on November 12, 2009 after a 3-6 start to the season. General manager Jeff Bower took over the head coaching duties for the remainder of the season. The Hornets overcame the bad start to the season and were as high as 6th in the Western Conference standings in late January. In the second to last game of January, Chris Paul got injured trying to save an errant pass going out of bounds. Despite returning for a stretch late in the season, that injury effectively ended Paul's season. The lone highlight for the remainder of the season was the stellar performance of rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. Collison achieved the longest stretch of games with at least 18 points and 9 assists (7 in a row in February) for a rookie since Oscar Robertson. For Thornton, one of many highlights was the 37 points (including a franchise record quarter of 23 points) he dropped on Cleveland on February 23. Both rookies made the all-rookie teams after the season, a first in franchise history.

The Hornets finished the season with a lowly 37–45 record, finishing last in the Southwest division they had won only two seasons before. Jeff Bower later resigned as head coach to concentrate on his front office duties. This did not last long as Bower was fired by the Hornets on July 13, 2010, ending a tenure of nearly 15 years within the organization. In between Bower's stepping down as head coach and his dismissal from the organization, Monty Williams was brought in as new head coach. The former assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers was at the age of just 38 the youngest head coach in the league.[19] To replace Bower as general manager, the Hornets hired Dell Demps of the San Antonio Spurs in late July.[20]

2010–2012: End of the Chris Paul Era and League Ownership

With a new head coach and a new general manager in place, the Hornets went through the summer with two vast uncertains hanging over the organization. The first was a prolonged process of minority owner Chris Paul. At several times during the off-season there were murmurs of unhappiness and a desire to be traded. At the start of the season, some of this had subsided, but the situation is still pertinent, and may resurface if the Hornets encounter another disappointing season, as Paul on numerous occasions has expressed his desire to be on a winning team.

On the player side, the off-season was also used to extensively reshape the roster. Several of the trades made could probably be seen in the dual perspective of a new philosophy given the new coach and GM, and a desire to appease Chris Paul while getting younger, more athletic, and stronger defensively. As soon as the 2010 NBA Draft, this process started. Lottery pick Cole Aldrich and disappointing guard Morris Peterson were shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 21st and 26th picks in the draft.[21] Those picks were subsequently used on forwards Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. On August 11, the Hornets shipped out surprising rookie Darren Collison and swing man James Posey to the Indiana Pacers for small forward Trevor Ariza from the Houston Rockets in a four team trade. In a separate trade on the same day, another disappointment, former lottery pick Julian Wright was traded to the Toronto Raptors for shooting guard Marco Belinelli.[22] On September 23, 2010, the Hornets sent rookie Craig Brackins and power forward Darius Songaila to the Philadelphia 76ers for guard Willie Green and center Jason Smith.[23] Finally, just before the start of the regular season on October 23, the Hornets acquired point guard Jerryd Bayless from the Portland Trail Blazers for a conditional first round draft pick.[24]

With this drastic overhaul of the roster, the Hornets seemingly accomplished getting younger, more athletic and potentially a lot better defensively. Several earlier mistakes were corrected in shipping out Peterson, Posey and Wright. The cost primarily was the loss of Collison and potentially the future first round draft pick. When the 2010-11 NBA season started only three players (Paul, West and Stojakovic) were left from the team that won the Southwest Division just over two years prior. Despite all the efforts toward reshaping the roster competitively, most pundits predicted a difficult season for the Hornets, with only few considering even an 8th seed possible.[25] However, the team got off to an impressive start. On November 5, the Hornets broke a team record with 5 straight wins to begin the season. The team then extended the streak to 8 straight wins to begin the season. The team also held their first 10 opponents to below 100 points. Later in the season, the team tied a club record with 10 straight wins on January 26, 2011. The team eventually qualified for the 2011 NBA Playoffs, where they lost to the Lakers 4-2.

On the ownership side, the buyout by Chouest fell through in early December 2010.[26] Because Shinn is not in a financial position to continue to run the team, the NBA was expected to purchase and run the team while looking for a local owner.[27] The NBA completed their purchase of the Hornets from George Shinn and Gary Chouest in December 2010 for an estimated $300 million. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation who previously tried to buy the Golden State Warriors, said he offered to purchase the team but was "slightly outbid" by the league.[28] On Jan 24, 2011, the state, city, and local businesses of New Orleans came together and raised enough money to buy enough tickets to block an escape clause that would have allowed the team to walk away from its lease at New Orleans Arena because of low attendance.[29]

A New Name and a New Era

2011-Present: Anthony Davis Era

After the 2011 NBA takeover, the Hornets notably nixed a trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers (via the NBA), eventually letting him leave for the Los Angeles Clippers via sign-and-trade. A year later, the Hornets were sold to Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, who immediately changed the team's name to the New Orleans Pelicans. That same year, they drafted Anthony Davis as the first overall pick. Davis would become the centerpiece of the rebuilding Pelicans.

Beginning in 2013, the franchise played under this name, surrendering the rights to the "Hornets" name to the NBA. Using that loophole, the league returned the Hornets name to the Charlotte Bobcats, who had existed as such since 2004; the team publicly announced plans to retire the "Bobcats" name and return to "Hornets" in 2014.

On May 20, 2014, the Charlotte Bobcats officially became the Charlotte Hornets. In addition, the newly renamed Hornets acquired the records and history of the original Hornets from 1988 to 2002, while the Pelicans kept the remaining records from the 2002–03 season onward. Source


  1. ^ "Charlotte Hornets (1988-2002)". Retrieved 2014-01-09. 
  2. ^ " - NBA Basketball - Hornets to apply for relocation to Memphis - Monday March 26, 2001 05:47 PM". 2001-03-26. Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  3. ^ World Class City, Third World Paycheck. Creative Loafing, 2001-12-29
  4. ^ Associated Press (2002-02-16). " - Council willing to amend 'new owner' statement". Retrieved 2014-01-09. 
  5. ^ Green, Ron Jr. Shinn: I messed up in Charlotte. Charlotte Observer, 2008-11-01.
  6. ^ Eye for victory
  7. ^ Sawyer Center
  8. ^{E4161849-E79C-4F0C-AD27-33DC07C3ED45}&sc=-1&ni=761&fr=news 1
  9. ^ Hornets new uniforms and logos
  10. ^ " NBA Preview Dime". Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  11. ^ "Thunder Rescind Trade for Tyson Chandler".  
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ " 2009-2010 Salary Cap". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  15. ^ "Hornets taking their time". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  16. ^ "Wolves Acquire Antonio Daniels from New Orleans". Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  17. ^ "Kings get Armstrong for 2016 pick". Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  18. ^ "Hornets trade Browns". Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  19. ^ Hornets name Williams coach
  20. ^ "Hornets hire Dell Demps". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  21. ^ "Hornets trade Aldrich and Peterson". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  22. ^ "Hornets get Ariza and Belinelli". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  23. ^ "Hornets get Green and Smith from Sixers". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  24. ^ "Hornets get Bayless from Blazers". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  25. ^ "Hornets predictions 2010-11". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  26. ^ Helin, Kurt (2010-12-10). "Gary Chouest wants to keep Hornets in New Orleans, so long as he doesn’t have to buy team".  
  27. ^ Stein, Marc (2010-12-05). "Sources: NBA set to take over Hornets". Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  28. ^ Bennett, Dashiell (2011-01-07). "Larry Ellison Confirms He Tried To Buy The New Orleans Hornets, But Was Beaten Back By The NBA". Business Insider. 
  29. ^ Gov. Bobby Jindal praises city for meeting New Orleans Hornets attendance benchmarks but says season tickets are key,
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