Pelicans aim for new identity: Playoff contender

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The NBA franchise in the Big Easy has a new name, new color scheme, new practice headquarters, newly renovated arena and most importantly, some new players who are proven producers.

So after a couple years at the bottom of the Western Conference, the team formerly known as the Hornets - and rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans - aims to transform its on-court identity from that from cellar dweller to playoff contender.

"I believe we can make the playoffs," said power forward Anthony Davis, the first overall draft pick in 2012. "We know it's going to be a lot of hard work, but we're prepared for it."

Last year, the franchise went 27-55 and wound up with a lottery pick, which it traded to Philadelphia for 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans followed that up with a three-team trade that brought in Tyreke Evans, a former rookie of the year in 2009-10 who has demonstrated his versatility in playing the point, shooting guard and small forward.

Davis said offseason moves like that showed players that general manager Dell Demps, coach Monty Williams and owner Tom Benson are "doing everything they can to try to win."

Benson, who also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints, bought his NBA franchise in the spring of 2012 and quickly moved to rebrand it with a mascot and colors tied to the heritage of his city and state. The red, gold and blue color scheme is similar to the New Orleans flag. The brown pelican is the state bird.

Benson also built a new practice center on the same campus that includes Saints headquarters. The new digs seem more attractive to pro basketball players than the wing of a community recreation center that had served as the Hornets' practice home since they moved from Charlotte in 2002.

"Obviously, there's something new here and I'm really excited to be a part of it," Holiday said.

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