The New Orleans Pelicans (often known as the Pels) are an NBA team based in New Orleans. The Pelicans play in the NBA’s Western Conference Southwest Division out of the Smoothie King Center (aka SKC). The NBA considers New Orleans an expansion team that began play in the 2002-2003 season as the New Orleans Hornets.
Basketball in New Orleans
The team was established as the Hornets in the 2002-2003 season when George Shinn, then owner of the team, relocated the franchise. However, due to damages to the arena caused by Hurricane Katrina, the team had temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City where they played two seasons as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City hornets before returning for the 2007-2008 season. The decision to rebrand as the Pelicans came in 2013 after the 2012-2013 season. The decision came when then owner, Tom Benson, indicated that he wanted to change the team’s name to something more local.
The name had previously been used by a minor-league baseball team that played in New Orleans from 1901 to 1957. The Hornets then officially confirmed the name change in a press conference held on January 24, 2013. Following the franchise’s 2013 disestablishment of the “Hornets” name, Michael Jordan submitted an application to change the name of his franchise to the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014-15 season pending a vote for approval.
2015 Playoff Return
During the 2014-2015 season, the team qualified for the NBA playoffs for the first time since the name change as the eight seed in the Western Conference. They won the tie-breaker over the Oklahoma City Thunder by winning the regular season head-to-head series, 3-1,. They then faced the Golden STate Warriors in the first round and were swept in four games. This led to the Pelicans firing their head coach Monty Williams.
The Pelicans then hired Alvin Gentry as the franchise’s sixth head coach. The team missed the 2016 playoffs with a 30-52 finish, but acquired the 6th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The Pelicans Today
In the teams 18 seasons of play since the relocation, the team has earned an overall regular season record of 740-864 (.461) and qualified for the playoffs eight times. The team has two playoff series victories and one division title to their name.
About Smoothie King Center
The Smoothie King Center (known locally as SKC) is a multi-purpose indoor arena in New Orleans, LA. It is located in New Orleans’s Central Business District adjacent to Caesars Superdome. It opened in 1999 and has served as the home for the New Oreleans Pelicans of the NBA since 2002. The arena also served as home for the AFL New Orleans VooDoo from 2004 – 2008 when the team disbanded then again from 2011-2015 when the franchise folded.
Like most multi-purpose arenas, SMK can be arranged in different ways depending on the needs of the upcoming show or event. But in general, this is the capacity for the venue.
- Concerts: 17,805
- NBA basketball: 16,867
- College basketball/NBA playoff games: 18,500
- Arena football/Ice hockey: 16,900
SMK hasn’t just been used for Pelicans events. The events below are just some of the major shows and events that have been hosted at the arena.
- The Smoothie King Center has hosted the NBA All-Star Games for 2008, 2014, and 2017.
- The arena also hosted the Southeast Regional of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament in 2011.
- The arena hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2007 and 2010
- The 2012 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament was held at the arena
- The 2004 and 2013 Women’s Final Four were both hosted at the arena
- On September 9, 2000 the arena hosted the light heavyweight title fight between Roy Jones Jr. and Eric Harding. A bout that Jones won by TKO in the 10th round
- In 2001 the arena hosted the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Bud Light Cup tour event
- The arena also hosted several WWE events including the January 2001 Royal Rumble, the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony and Raw for WrestleMania XXX on April 5-7 2014, and the June 8, 2015 WWE Raw show.
Since the team’s inception, they have won the 2008 division championships. But beyond that, the team has yet to claim a championship title. However, the team has fielded exceptional players and coaches who have been granted awards and recognition. The list below are just some of these awards.
Rookie of the Year
- Chris Paul – 2006
Coach of the Year
- Byron Scott – 2008
NBA Sportsmanship Award
- P. J. Brown – 2004
All-NBA First Team
- Chris Paul – 2008
- Anthony Davis – 2015, 2017, 2018
NBA All-Rookie First Team
- Chris Paul – 2006
- Darren Collison – 2010
- Anthony Davis – 2013
- Zion Williamson – 2020
All-Star West Head Coach
- Byron Scott – 2008