Hornets officially become Pelicans

What's in a name? The New Orleans Pelicans hope it's a new era of winning, starting with the NBA draft lottery on May 21.

That's the day when the team participates in a league event for the first time with its new name. The team formerly known as the Hornets announced Thursday that the team should now be called the Pelicans in all dealings.

"We have been looking forward to this day since we announced the Pelicans as the new name," owner Tom Benson said in a statement. "The Pelican is a symbol for our city and region, and we're excited to start a new era in Louisiana basketball history. This offseason is going to be a special time for the Pelicans."

At least it's a clean slate for the Pelicans. The Hornets haven't made the playoffs the past two seasons and lost in the first round in 2010-11.

The Hornets have been in New Orleans since moving from Charlotte for the 2002-03 season, although they were relocated temporarily to Oklahoma City from 2005-07 due to Hurricane Katrina. Benson, who also owns the NFL's Saints, bought the team last spring.

The nickname Hornets "didn't mean anything to this community," Benson said when he announced the planned name change in January. "The pelican represents New Orleans, just like the Saints. They have incredible resolve. If they can do that, the team can do the same."

There has been talk that the Charlotte Bobcats might be interested in bringing the Hornets name back to that team.

The new color scheme for the Pelicans is blue, gold and red, a departure from the Hornets' teal, purple, gold and white.

The brown pelican is Louisiana's state bird and has become identified with efforts to restore Louisiana's coast, which has been damaged extensively by the 2010 BP oil spill and erosion from Katrina and other storms. Images of the pelicans covered with oil were plentiful after the oil spill.

The brown pelican was taken off the endangered species list in 2009.