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A Short History of the Pelicans
The NBA's New Orleans Pelicans—formerly known as the New Orleans Hornets—is a professional basketball team that was founded in 2002 in the city of New Orleans. The team is owned by tom Benson, a New Orleans native and owner of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, and managed by Dell Demps since 2012. The Pelicans have established a loyal fan base and earned a few playoff appearances during the course of their history.
The Pelicans were originally known as the Charlotte Hornets from 1988 to 2002 before moving to New Orleans. The team was founded by the NBA in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1988 when George Shinn, an entrepreneur from New Orleans, sold his interest in the team to an ownership group of 13 partners in 2002. That same year, Tom Benson, a born and bred New Orleanian, acquired the franchise from the NBA and relocated it to New Orleans.
The move was a wise choice, as the Pelicans have now become one of the more popular teams in the NBA. Under the tenure of head coach Monty Williams, the Pelicans made their first playoff appearance since the move to NOLA in 2015 when they defeated the defending-champion Golden State Warriors in a historic 5-game victory. This marked the first time in franchise history that the team had advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
A New Era of Success
The Pelicans enjoyed a brief, yet successful, start to the 2016-17 season, as they made a return to the playoffs in 2017, where they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in 4 games. As the team entered a new era of success, fans began to flock to the Smoothie King Center. In 2018, the Pelicans earned the 6th seed in the Western Conference, winning 48 games and finishing 3rd in the Southwest Division. In the playoffs, the team was eliminated by the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the conference semi-finals.
As the Pelicans entered the 2018-19 season, they were met with high expectations from their fans, but injuries to key players such as Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday left the team with a lackluster record of 33–49. Despite the setback, the Pelicans continued to remain a popular team thanks to the addition of star forward Zion Williamson and the hiring of David Griffin as their new executive vice president.
The Zion Effect
The team's fortunes were lifted significantly by the selection of Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA draft, as Zion quickly became one of the league’s most popular players. His success helped the Pelicans exceed expectations and reach the playoffs in 2020. Under his leadership, the team knocked off the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets to reach the Western Conference semi-finals, where they were eliminated by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games.
The Pelicans' success in the 2020 playoffs was impressive and unexpected, and it all began with the selection of Zion, who averaged 27.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As the team enters the 2021-22 season, the Pelicans are looking to build on their success from the past few years. With the emergence of Zion and the continued development of versatile forward Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans are destined to be one of the more exciting teams in the NBA and a must-watch for basketball fans.
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