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Volume 24 No. 158


Hornets Senior VP/Communications & Broadcasting Greg Bensel yesterday "denied a Yahoo! Sports report" that team Owner Tom Benson "plans to change the nickname of his NBA franchise from the Hornets to Pelicans," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Bensel said, "We’re not confirming that is the name. This is a process that’s ongoing and still in discussions. And it will be eventually decided by the NBA." NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday prior to the report said that he would "support a change of the Hornets' nickname" (, 12/4). Hornets Senior Dir of Communications Harold Kaufman said, "Been getting flooded with calls. Telling everyone that any name and color changes are controlled by the NBA and that process has yet to take shape" (, 12/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Marc Spears in the initial report cited sources as saying that the Hornets are expected to adopt the Pelicans nickname "as early as the 2013-14 season." Benson "owns the rights to the nickname Pelicans," and the Hornets have "planned to change their nickname" since he purchased the team in April. The Hornets also "considered the nicknames Krewe and Brass." Louisiana is known as the Pelican State, as the brown pelican is the state bird and "appears on the state flag and seal, and official state painting." Benson's wife, Gayle, recently said that her "preference for new team colors was navy blue, red and gold" (, 12/4).

FOR THE BIRDS? CBS Sports Network’s Allie LaForce said the Pelicans name is "terrible." LaForce: "It's the state bird, so I get it. They want to make it more Louisiana.” However, she said of New Orleans, “You think of Mardi Gras, jambalaya, and gumbo. The last thing I think of is a pelican.” CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb added, “I would open negotiations and say, ‘Look we want the Jazz nickname back. It’s the New Orleans Jazz, it fits’” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 12/4).
NBA TV’s Steve Smith said, “It should’ve been the New Orleans crawfish, because I like to eat” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 12/4).

TWITTER REAX: The possible name change has generated a lot of reaction on Twitter. NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano wrote, "The New Orleans Hornets are changing their name to the Pelicans. This is not a hoax, nor a story from @TheOnion." ESPN The Magazine's Don Van Natta Jr. wrote, "The New Orleans Hornets are changing its name to the Pelicans. Big missed opportunity: The New Orleans Brass."'s Will Brinson wrote, "New Orleans Krewe or New Orleans Brass would be boss. Pelicans the worst of the three." The N.Y. Post's Marc Berman wrote, "New Orleans Gumbo. New Orleans Crawfish. New Orleans Sazeracs. New Orleans Crescents. New Orleans Trombones New Orleans Bayous. Not Pelicans." ESPN's Kevin Negandhi wrote, "Is it April Fools?" Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy wrote, "People hating on the Pelicans nickname just don't appreciate what awesome animals they are." The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan wrote, "People saying Pelicans are not feared clearly have not sought the opinion of the local mullet population." WITI-Fox' Jen Lada wrote, "I happen to like Pelicans. I mean, if it weren't for that one they'd still be looking for Nemo..."

BRING THE BUZZ BACK TO CHARLOTTE: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the Bobcats “need to rebrand themselves as the Charlotte Hornets.” The Bobcats nickname was chosen “in part for previous owner Bob Johnson, who was widely unpopular in Charlotte.” Although current Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan was “once Johnson’s minority partner before buying the team from him, I don’t think MJ likes the nickname at all.” He often “refers to the team as the ‘Cats’ in conversation, dropping the ‘Bob’ entirely.” Here is a “chance to remind people of the glory days of NBA basketball in Charlotte.” Fowler: “Sure, it will cost several million to do this, but it will be money well spent and the new Charlotte Hornets will eventually make it up via jersey and memorabilia sales. This makes sense from both a financial and an emotional standpoint” (, 12/5). 
STERN TALKS ABOUT BENSON OWNERSHIP: The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Reid in a separate piece conducted a Q&A with Stern and asked how the NBA has been monitoring the Hornets' progress since Benson bought the team from the league in April. Stern said, "Our team marketing and business operations department has been down there at least twice. I spoke regularly with [Hornets President] Dennis Lauscha and with Tom. So I think it’s fair to say that we’re tuned into what’s going on." He added, "I speak to Tom probably once every 10 days or so. ... I would say an open and frank relationship. I always like to tell him that they had only eight games to sell in that football thing they are involved with. Football is a piece of cake, eight games. You got to work harder in the NBA." FS New Orleans prior to the start of the season signed a carriage deal with Charter, allowing the team's games to be seen around the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi and Alabama. Stern said, "That’s a big deal. To be in 2.1 million homes and make a new deal with DirectTV. To be on the north shore. It was like they were doing it with one hand behind their back and now they’re getting fans engaged, getting sponsors engaged and helping to sell tickets in the long run." Stern added of the NBA's previous ownership role with the Hornets, "That’s not a situation that is good for the league. But in the right circumstance I would do it again because when you make the commitment to the community, you’ve got to do what you got to do" (, 12/4).

The Pistons "expect to finish this season at least 10 percent better financially than last year" despite an 0-8 start that "devastated ticket sales" of individual games, according to Bill Shea of CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS. Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion said that strong group, courtside and suite sales have "helped at least partially offset the lack of single-game tickets being sold." But The Palace at Auburn Hills “can appear startlingly empty.” The reason for the “attendance problems is something the Pistons and pundits have long acknowledged: Fans simply don't buy tickets to watch a struggling team that plays in north Oakland County.” When the Pistons win, "fans come out.” The team “sold out every game” from ‘04 through ‘08. Mannion said, "The area that is up in the air in a big, big way is individual ticket sales. You count on that when you have a very small season ticket base." Shea noted the team's season-ticket base is “thought to have fallen off by 50 percent over the past five seasons.” But suite sales “are better than expected.” On the 100 level, “all but five of 50 suites are leased for the season,” while on 37 of 50 suites are leased "on the 200 level." Mannion said that the 300 level's 80 suites, at the top of the arena, "are a tougher proposition.” He added that Palace Sports “may convert 16 more of those 300-level suites into another club ... but that decision hasn't been made” (, 12/2).

NOT ALWAYS SUNNY? In New Jersey, Wes Szafran writes of the 76ers' average attendance of 15,592 through 10 home games, "If you sit inside the Wells Fargo Center during a Sixer game, it’s hard to believe there are that many people around you." In an "attempt to boost attendance during the holiday season, the Sixers have started selling 'Sixer Holiday Packs.'" The ticket packages, which start at $60, include a "pair of tickets to three different games, an autographed player photo and a $50 gift certificate to Golden Nugget Jewelers." Still, Szafran writes, "There's no obvious solution for what the Sixers can do to bring in more fans" (SOUTH JERSEY TIMES, 12/5).

In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt wrote the Brewers "never intended to return" to the $100M payroll the team reached in '12. The team's franchise-record payroll and "a so-so season in which attendance dropped from more than 3 million to 2.83 million" caused the Brewers to lose "several million dollars.” Projected to have a payroll of $80-85M, the Brewers “already are committed to about $65 million to players signed for 2013.” Team GM Doug Melvin said that Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio “wants to maintain flexibility should an unexpected player become available or an in-season addition could put them over the top in the playoff race.” Meanwhile, Melvin said the Brewers’ local TV contract will increase from $12M a year to “around” $21M in ’13, but added “that’s not even close” to what most other teams are getting (, 12/4).

NEW BLUE: In Toronto, Richard Griffin wrote Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has noticed his players “are excited and their free agent friends now want [to] play in Toronto." Anthopoulos said, “There’s definitely been more interest because of the commitment that ownership has made and it’s clear everyone believes we’re trying to move forward and make the club better” (TORONTO STAR, 12/4). Griffin in a separate piece wrote, “To use a horse-racing analogy, the Jays are the early speed, the Red Sox have positioned themselves well off the pace as a late closer. The Rays and O's are lurking and the Yankees stumbled out of the gate.” But the Red Sox “are the team to watch” (, 12/4).

PENNIES FOR PIN STRIPES?’s Ken Rosenthal writes under the header, “Yankees Uncharacteristically Thrifty.” The Yankees are “in the process of building a team that could prove not only unsuccessful but also unwatchable -- a double whammy in an era in which regional television networks are the lifebloods of big-market teams.” If there “isn’t debate in the front office over the Yankees’ self-imposed austerity kick, there darned well should be” (, 12/5).

: In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes the Dodgers “have the money to outbid all comers, and that could make other teams think twice before engaging in a bidding process they might have little chance to win.” They are “baseball's moneyed elite, the role formerly played” by the Yankees. The Dodgers are “what the Yankees used to be.” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, “I'm sure just about every article that's written will have some kind of note on our payroll” (L.A. TIMES, 12/5).

QMI AGENCY’s John Kryk noted a street festival called the Bud Light Pre-Game Festivities "will precede" the Dec. 16 Seahawks-Bills game in Toronto. There is no entry fee, "nor does anyone need a ticket to the game to enter the area.” Festivities include a “main stage with live music, food vendors, NFL merchandise booths, football-skill participation areas ... Bills alumni and the Bills mascot.” Bills in Toronto Series Exec Dir Greg Albrecht said, “There’s food, there’s beverage, there’s stuff for kids to do. So it’s going to be a fan and family experience” (QMI AGENCY, 12/4).

TIME FOR A RECHARGE? In San Diego, Jay Paris wrote the Chargers are “adrift, in need of a makeover, and a fresh set of eyes to perform the face lift.” The team’s “empty seats, depleted roster, television blackouts and half-baked promises are telling.” Chargers GM A.J. Smith has two years remaining on his contract, and "two words come to mind: buy out.” Smith has “run his course, and the Chargers need to find another track to run on.” He “hit a round-tripper or two earlier in his stint," but there have been “too many swings and misses, too many disappointing reaches and a signature coaching hire putting the team on the edge of darkness” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/3).

GIVE HIM HECK: In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote, “If the choice is between [longtime NFL exec Mike] Lombardi and current Browns general manager Tom Heckert, the answer is simple. Heckert stays.” It is “obvious that Heckert has given Browns fans real reason for hope because of the infusion of young talent.” Meanwhile, Lombardi is “very public relations savvy.” He “works for and other media outlets,” and is “a regular on talk shows.” He is “engaging and entertaining.” Pluto: “While some of his harshest critics insist he's a disaster as an executive, I do believe Lombardi has some ability when it comes to scouting players. But an upgrade over Heckert? Hard to imagine why anyone would say that” (, 12/4).