Sources: Hornets plan to become Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Hornets are moving ahead with plans to change their name to the Pelicans next season, people

familiar with the decision said.

The people spoke to The Associated Press

Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the Hornets have not

announced the name

change. The people say that is expected to come Thursday, when

club also will unveil the proposed new color scheme of blue,

gold and red.

Hornets owner Tom Benson has said since buying the NBA club last spring that he wanted a new name representing New Orleans

and Louisiana.

The brown pelican is the state bird and has

become symbolic of efforts to restore Louisiana's fragile coast, which

has been

hit hard by the 2010 BP oil spill and erosion from major storms

including Hurricane Katrina, which displaced the Hornets to

Oklahoma City for two seasons from 2005-07.

Benson owns the rights to the name Pelicans, which was used for decades by a former minor league baseball team in New Orleans.

The NBA would have to approve any name change, but Commissioner David Stern already said during a visit to New Orleans earlier

this season that he won't object to whatever new name Benson might choose because he knows it will be "sensible," and that

the league could expedite the process.

The Hornets are New Orleans' second NBA team. The first was the Jazz, which played in the Big Easy from 1974-79 before moving

to Utah, and current owners of the club have indicated on multiple occasions they had no intention of giving up that name

so New Orleans could have it back.

The Hornets were founded in Charlotte in 1988 by then-owner George Shinn, who kept that name when he moved the team to New

Orleans in 2002.

Shinn sold the Hornets to the NBA in December 2010, and the league spent more than a year looking for a buyer who would keep

the team in New Orleans long term.

Last April, Benson, who also has owned the

NFL's New Orleans Saints since 1985, agreed to purchase the club for

$338 million.

As part of the purchase, he agreed to a lease of the state-owned

New Orleans Arena through 2024, ending several years of speculation

that the club would be moved again to another city seeking an NBA

franchise.

The Hornets were in San Antonio on Wednesday night to play the Spurs, heading into the game with a promising stint of seven

victories in their past nine games, but still near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The recent increase in

winning has coincided with the return of high-scoring guard Eric Gordon from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of

the first two months of the season.

Since Benson took over the club, the

contracts of general manager Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams

have been extended,

and the team has seen an influx of new, young talent including

first overall draft choice Anthony Davis and 10th overall pick

Austin Rivers.

Now the hope is that the club's young nucleus will turn New Orleans into an NBA contender in the years to come, and do so

with a new look and new name which speak to the regions fans.