NBA notes: New name has helped reshape New Orleans’ basketball identity
NBA notes • Memories of Jazz fade as Pelicans take flight in Louisiana.
Published: February 16, 2014 06:07PM
Updated: February 17, 2014 12:44PM
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Damian Lillard of the Portland Train Blazers participates in the slam dunk contest during the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans • This is a town known for its jazz, but no longer its Jazz.

And while there always will be people here who would like to have the moniker attached to their basketball team, the Crescent City franchise’s new branding will hopefully quell that if only a little, says Pelicans owner/vice chairman of the board Rita Benson LeBlanc.

“What we are so good about in New Orleans is building out our culture of music and food, and now it’s that culture of sports and really making the Pelicans hip,” she said.

ESPN analyst Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native, also believes the new name has helped, despite early criticisms.

“When Rita and her team decided to name the team the Pelicans, it was the butt of a lot of jokes early on,” he said. “But I liked the name from Day 1. I think it’s a symbol of strength, not only for a basketball team, but for a whole city.”

The crowded West

Jazz point guard Trey Burke hopes to one day play in an All-Star game, but the rookie will have a tough hill to climb to get there.

Just ask Goran Dragic.

The Suns guard is averaging better than 20 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds per game, but couldn’t make the cut.

“I was really sad and disappointed when I found out I didn’t make it,” said Dragic, who participated in Saturday’s skills competition against Burke. “I know the West, the competition is so hard. We have great guards. It’s tough.”

No show

Damian Lillard is not alone in putting LeBron James near the top of his list players he’d like to see in a future Slam Dunk Contest.

But Jazz legend Karl Malone wants the calls for James to appear to stop.

“If all we get is LeBron [dunking] before games and after practice, embrace it and enjoy,” Malone said, referring to the one-man shows James has been known to put on. “But let’s embrace and support the kids who’s in it.”

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz