He tried to sound diplomatic, but Dwight Howard couldn’t help but snicker at the New Orleans Hornets changing their name to the Pelicans.
“When we bring it in, we’ll say Lakers on 3. But Pelicans on 3?” Howard said with a smile. “That seems kind of weird. I play for the Lakers so I like our name.”
Well, at least it’s safe cross the Hornets…er.. Pelicans off the list of teams Howard could play for once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Regardless, the Lakers’ (19-25) game tonight against the New Orleans Hornets (15-29) at Staples Center marks the last time the two teams will play before the name change takes place next season.
“They’re not very intimidating,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said of the Pelicans with a smile.
The Lakers’ talent intimidates others, let alone their Forbes’ assessed $1 billion value. But does the actual name?
Hornets owner Tom Benson changed the name to the Pelicans, Louisiana’s state bird and a symbol identified with efforts to repair the state’s coast following Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the BP oil spill (2010). Plenty of images surrounding the oil spill showed plenty of affected pelicans, an animal that had been taken off the endangered species list in 2009. Benson also owns the rights to the name Pelicans, which was the nickname for a former minor league baseball team that played in New Orleans for more than 70 years.
The Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte since the 2002-03 season.
The Lakers aren’t just delivering amused by New Orleans’ name change. They’re also in a better mood because of a two-game winning streak featuring a signature win against Oklahoma City. With the Hornets ranking last in the Western Conference, the Lakers should take this game before embarking on an 11-day, seven-game trip.
Still, the Hornets have compiled signature wins, including the Memphis Grizzlies (twice), San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Clippers and Chicago Bulls. New Orleans also features Anthony Davis, who ranks fourth among rookies in scoring (12.8 points per game). Lakers forward Pau Gasol tuned into New Orleans’ win Sunday against Memphis because his brother, Marc, plays for the Grizzlies. It prompted him not to poke fun at New Orleans’ new name change.
“Whichever the name might be, they have a dangerous team. They have young talent team. If you allow them to play and take them lightly, they’re going to get you,” Gasol said. “They’re a tough team. We can’t take them lightly. We have to turn it up a notch against this team.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org