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Volume 24 No. 115


Hornets Owner Tom Benson on Thursday officially announced that the team's name will "switch to the New Orleans Pelicans next season," according to Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Pelicans' team colors "will be blue, red and gold." Hornets officials said that the name change was "made after scouring more than 100 possible names in a search for the perfect fit." They settled on the name because it is the state bird and because team officials said that Pelicans "represent some of their biggest community efforts." Benson said, "The Hornets name came from Charlotte. That fits in with Charlotte. It doesn’t fit into New Orleans, La., or our area here. The Hornets don’t mean anything here. We needed something that symbolizes New Orleans and Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. And nothing does that better than this name." Hogan reports the new logo and name will "begin popping up almost immediately." Some Pelicans merchandise was "expected to be available at the team’s store in the New Orleans Arena Thursday." Officials said that any marketing or advertisement for the '13-14 season will "carry the new logo and name." To expedite the name-change process, the Hornets had to "get special permission from the NBA." League rules typically require a "two-year period for a name change." The league also allowed a team for the first time "to begin making the transition in season." The Hornets originally received a "lukewarm response from the league on the name change." However, Hornets Senior VP/Marketing & Business Development Ben Hales said that the name "began to grow on league executives once they heard the history of pelicans and how the bird ties into the community" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/25). Hornets President Dennis Lauscha said that the franchise's Pelicans name will be the "cornerstone of the community efforts that primarily will focus on two challenges to the region involving the health and fitness of children and sustainability of the coastal wetlands" (, 1/24). Lauscha added that the pelican is “extraordinarily important not only to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, it’s important to the whole Gulf Coast region” ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 1/24).

: YAHOO SPORTS' Kelly Dwyer noted the lettering in the new logo was "inspired by street signs that dot the city’s French Quarter." The team will "retain the very NOLA-ish Fleur de Lys symbol both in the main logo (up top) and in an alternate logo that replaces the head and beak of the bird inside the flower." The blue in the logo "stands for the state of Louisiana," while the gold represents the "glittery nature of the city of New Orleans." Dwyer: "What is less impressive is the actual bird in the logo. It’s pretty peeved, as you can tell; and while we weren’t expecting a cartoonish logo to have fun with, this new logo feels like something the Golden State Warriors would have come out with in 1997" (, 1/24).'s Paul Lukas wrote it "looks like the NBA's long-running rule about logos having to show a basketball remains intact." The lettering is "too ornate, too busy." The trend of "bookending the wordmark with a large letter on the right side is way overplayed by now." The secondary logos "are fine." Lukas: "Nice that they came up with the Bird-de-Lis to replace the Fleur-de-Bee" (, 1/24).

BORN ON THE BAYOU: In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan writes team officials "hit a home run" with the name change, as the entire re-brand, from the name to the logo to the conservation education plan, was "well-considered and executed." It might "take time for some folks to warm to the nickname," but "eventually they will." The Pelicans name "satisfies the two most important criteria for any name change." Duncan: "First, it's unique. ... Moreover, it's indigenous. You can't get much more Louisiana than the pelican." The only "more unique and indigenous name was already taken." The club "made a run at the Jazz nickname, contacting Utah officials early in Benson's ownership tenure to see if they'd be willing to return the name to its rightful owners." But a deal in the end "couldn't be worked out" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/25). TRUE HOOPS' Henry Abbott wrote, "If I were to summarize the nation's reaction to the Hornets becoming the Pelicans, in a word, I'd say: bemused." Locally, however, "things could not be more different." To the people who "chose it, this is, by far, the least amusing name in sports." Abbott: "Louisiana pelicans, we learned in the news conference, represent tradition, passion, resilience, pride, grandeur and charity. This is simply a regional difference in perception, and I respect that" (, 1/24).

MUSICAL NICKNAMES: In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman writes the Hornets' pending name change "opens the door for one of the stranger possibilities in the history of NBA record-keeping should the Charlotte Bobcats, an expansion team that replaced the Hornets after the team moved to New Orleans in 2002, attempt to reclaim the Hornets moniker." If that happened, the team in Charlotte still would "have a history dating only to 2004, when the Bobcats began play." The records and stats of the Charlotte Hornets from '88-'02 would "remain with the Pelicans." Then there are the Kings, "potentially headed to Seattle under new ownership." If they did, they could "reclaim the SuperSonics name, though the history of that franchise, which played in Seattle from 1967 to 2008, would presumably still be owned" by the Thunder. The Kings' history "would remain with the team in Seattle" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/25). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes a potential name change for the Bobcats "has to be about more than nostalgia." Reclaiming the Hornets name will "cost the Bobcats about $3 million." Sorensen: "Will fans buy tickets to watch a sub-.500 team simply because they like the name on the front of the jerseys?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/25).

Legends Chair & CEO Dave Checketts on Thursday announced that he had "sold his interest in Real Salt Lake to the team's minority owner Dell Loy Hansen," according to a front-page piece by Aaron Falk of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. Hansen "purchased 49 percent of the club in November 2009, just days before RSL won the MLS Cup." Hansen with the sale now is the "sole owner of SCP Worldwide’s sports properties in Utah, which includes RSL, Rio Tinto Stadium and ESPN 700." Hansen said, "We now know we’ve got more opportunities in the acquisition world. It’s always been difficult to look at the cost of competing with an L.A. or New York or Chicago. I think we open that door." Falk reports the MLS club is a year away from "operating in the black." However, Hansen said that he "believes RSL and Major League Soccer are trending in the right direction." He "views the purchase as a 'family asset,' something he might pass on to someone else in five years." Hansen sees himself as a "hands-on owner, but not an executive who will meddle with day-to-day management of the team." He said that he has "no plans to alter the triumvirate of RSL president Bill Manning, general manager Garth Lagerwey and coach Jason Kreis" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/25). Checketts said that he now will "dedicate more of his time to his role as chairman and CEO of Legends Hospitality Management, a merchandising and ticketing company that was founded by the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Goldman Sachs and CIC Partners." He said, "Eight years ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to create something of meaning for my hometown and state. Looking back, I believe we have achieved something great" (DESERET NEWS, 1/25).

CHECKETTS' EFFECT: In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthorpe writes Checketts can "walk away from his ownership of Real Salt Lake with pride and satisfaction." The sale to Hansen should "meet Checketts’ goal to 'uncomplicate' his life and reduce his worries." He is "free to live happily in Connecticut without agonizing about what’s happening on the scoreboard in Sandy." Checketts "delivered a championship to his home state -- with a franchise that’s thriving far beyond anyone’s expectations, playing in a spectacular stadium that Checketts overcame all kinds of political battles and funding issues to get built, and being administered by an MLS model front-office operation." Kragthorpe: "Mix in his work in 1980s with the Jazz, turning a joke of a franchise into a stable, highly respected organization, and Checketts created a remarkable legacy, stretched over 30 years in two phases of his Utah-based career. He’d make any all-time list of the 10 most influential people -- athletes, coaches, owners and executives -- in Utah pro sports" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/25).

NBA Kings investor Bob Cook said that Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison is "expected to meet soon" with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about the potential of keeping the franchise from moving to Seattle, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. With Cook "complaining" that the Maloof family has "improperly shut limited partners out of the bidding, Ellison's potential interest in the team ramps up the drama even higher." Ellison is "worth $41 billion and was an unsuccessful bidder" for the Warriors in '10. If he does bid, Ellison "apparently would be operating independently of the potential partnership" between Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov. The possible "emergence of Ellison could further complicate the Maloofs' efforts to complete their deal with the Seattle group, led by" hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The Maloofs are "already running into interference from their own limited partners, including Cook." David Flemmer, a bankruptcy trustee who "controls Cook's 7 percent share of the team, said Thursday the limited partners are being denied their legal rights to match the Seattle offer." Don Fitzgerald, Flemmer's lawyer, said that litigation "is possible over the issue." Flemmer said that he "thinks the minority owners have 'first right of refusal' to buy the Maloofs' controlling interest" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/25).

EXPAND, DON'T RELOCATE: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes if Johnson "secures a deep-pockets ownership group to purchase majority interest in the Kings ... the NBA's Board of Governors needs to revisit its anti-expansion sentiment." Voisin: "Leave the Kings alone and allow Sonics fans to start over from the beginning." That would be the "most civil outcome and would seem to make the most sense, except NBA Commissioner David Stern and his owners are adamantly opposed to expansion because of economic concerns" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/25).

EPL club Manchester United execs have “denied they are diluting their brand by negotiating so many sponsorship deals,” according to Simon Stone of the London INDEPENDENT. The team in the space of an hour last week “revealed agreements with Chinese duo Wahaha and China Construction Bank, then on Friday they had an Old Trafford launch for another three-year partnership with Japanese paint manufacturer Kansai Paint.” ManU in its most recent annual results to June 30 2012 “posted a 13.7% increase in commercial income” to US$185.9M. That figure “will rise this year as United marketing manager Jonathan Rigby rejects the notion that United have reached their limit.” Rigby said, "We don't see that at all. We see an increase in growth in the vibrancy of our brand.” Rigby also “does not feel United have come even close to maximising their potential.” Other soccer clubs are “starting to follow the Red Devils' lead though.” EPL club Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis has “spoken of his admiration for United's commercial expertise, whilst both Real Madrid and Barcelona are amongst those who seem to be embarking on the same strategy” (London INDEPENDENT, 1/24).

The average NBA team is worth $509M, "a 30% increase over last year," according to Kurt Badenhausen of The increase is "due to higher revenue from television, new and renovated arenas, and the NBA’s new collective-bargaining agreement, which reduced player costs from 57% of revenues to roughly 50%." The labor deal also "increased the amount of money high-revenue teams provide low-revenue teams." The Knicks are the league’s "most valuable team," worth $1.1B, "reclaiming the crown" from the Lakers, who topped last year’s list. The Knicks‘ value rose 41%, mainly due to a $980M renovation of Madison Square Garden "that is expected to be completed this summer." The makeover "resulted in an NBA-leading" $243M in revenue last season. The Knicks‘ operating income of $83M was the "highest in the league for a third straight year." The team's "better play" is another factor, as the Knicks in '12 "won a playoff game for the first time" in 11 years. The outlook for the NBA "is strong, with stars" like Heat F LeBron James and Thunder F Kevin Durant in their "prime and formerly weak franchises revitalized in the big markets of New York (Nets) and Los Angeles (Clippers)" (, 1/23).

Trail Blazers

VALUES DON'T MATTER: In Dallas, Eddie Sefko noted the Mavericks at $685M are valued at $400M more than what Owner Mark Cuban paid for them in '00. The Mavericks had a net operating income of $13M, "which is only the second time in Cuban’s ownership that the team turned a profit." The other season was '01-02, when the magazine said the Mavericks made $3M. But Cuban said, "It only matters if you sell, which I have no plans to do." Forbes before last season had "pegged the losses during Cuban’s ownership" at $180M (, 1/23). Meanwhile, T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor paid $88M for the team 18 years ago, but he said of the team's new valuation, "It doesn't make any difference to me what they say. It's what I negotiate that will count" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/25).

POT OF GOLD:'s Tom Van Riper wrote the Celtics after 10 "years and hundreds of millions in added value" under Managing Partner Wyc Grousbeck are "primed to be flipped." But Grousbeck and Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca "insist that their team isn't for sale." Grousbeck is "clearly a fan, one who discusses draft picks and all-star selections as easily as his latest cable deal with Comcast." He "delights in marketing the team, a powerhouse brand that he snapped up during a dormant period, to his fellow New Englanders." The Celtics are "making a bundle," generating an estimated $19M in operating profit on revenues of some $143M last year versus the league averages of $12M and $123M. And they are "doing it without owning the building they play in." Grousbeck recently said he turned down a "ridiculous number" for the Celtics. Grousbeck "won’t say on the record and won’t disclose who made the offer." But if it had "worked out, he insists, it would have dwarfed the $360 million he and a group of investors," including Pagliuca, paid for the team in '02 (, 1/23).

In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes following Thursday's trade of D'Backs LF Justin Upton to the Braves, it is "hard to imagine anything else luring fans to Chase Field" this year other than the D'Backs becoming a contending team. Upton was the "face of the franchise," and what is left is a team with a "subdued personality." D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said, "I always worry about (fan reaction). One thing we have to be careful not to do ... is to make a decision based on PR or what we think it will do to ticket sales." But Boivin writes, "We need a darn good reason to go to a sporting event. You know, like to watch a two-time All Star" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/25).

LOOK WHO'S BACK: In Boston, Scott Lauber reports the Red Sox have brought back former MLBer Pedro Martinez to "act as a mentor to impressionable pitchers, a spring training instructor [and] even a confidante" for GM Ben Cherington. Martinez, who played for the team from '98-'04, is "expected to advise Cherington in matters of player evaluation." But Martinez also will "put on a uniform and assist pitching coaches at both the major and minor league levels" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/25). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham notes Martinez' role will be "similar to that of Jason Varitek, who rejoined the team in the fall." Both were "involved with the organizational meetings at Fenway Park earlier this week" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/25).

A SLOW BUILD: Indians President Mark Shapiro said that there has been "little rise in season-ticket sales" since Terry Francona was hired as manager in October. The team's season-ticket base is only 6,500, but Shapiro "expects that changing the culture of the organization with Francona and free agent acquisition Nick Swisher should help that." Shapiro said of Francona, "He's already made a huge impact with our players and internally with our organization. And the response from our fan base has been very positive. The bottom line is, if we're more competitive, we'll move in the right direction" (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/25).

I LOVE THE 80s: ESPN CHICAGO's Doug Padilla noted the White Sox this year "will wear the 1983 jerseys for Sunday home games throughout the season." The "red and navy blue 1983 jerseys will have a pullover top and the block-lettered SOX logo on the front" (, 1/24).

In San Jose, David Pollak reports the Sharks before their home opener against the Coyotes Thursday “put a collective apology on the videoboard, a montage of players, general manager Doug Wilson, executive vice-president Malcolm Bordelon and ... an usher.” The relevant line during the video shared by several speakers was, “We want to apologize for any hardship the last four months have caused our fans, our partners, our community” (, 1/25). Meanwhile, the MERCURY NEWS' Eric Kurhi notes the sentiment among many fans at Thursday's game "ran one of two ways.” There was the "it's over; let's move on" crowd, just “happy to get half a season and hope a showstopping labor dispute doesn't happen again.” Then there are those “who acknowledge some bitterness remains, although they've let enough of it go that it doesn't mess with their enjoyment of the game” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/25).

TEAM SPIRIT: The Sabres announced that last week’s Fan Appreciation Sale at the team store helped to set up a week of record-breaking sales. The Sabres Store through the seven-day sale sold nearly 50,000 pieces of merchandise, the most the team has ever sold in such a short period of time and a total that was greater than the amount sold during the entire ’10-11 season. The store sold more than 8,000 jerseys and 9,000 hats (Sabres).

TALKING THE TALK: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports negotiations between T’Wolves Owner Glen Taylor and a "potential out-of-state buyer for the Wolves and Lynx continue, but any deal is at least a month away.” A purchase would “require that the NBA and WNBA teams remain in Minnesota” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/25).