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Luhm on NBA: Maybe 'Jazz' belongs back in New Orleans

Published April 15, 2012 9:10 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tom Benson has agreed to pay the tidy sum of $338 million for the NBA's struggling franchise in New Orleans.

For his money, Benson wants to change the team's nickname from Hornets to something more closely connected to the city.

"We'd like to change it tomorrow," he told the Times-Picayune. "We have not gotten that approved, but we're not letting up on it, either."

May I suggest the New Orleans Jazz?

Seriously.

I know Utah has been home of the Jazz since the team moved from Bourbon Street to the Wasatch Front prior to the 1979-80 season, which was a logical time for a name change.

But co-owners Sam Battistone and Larry Hatfield decided to stick with "Jazz" because they wanted to keep the franchise tied to its roots.

Battistone once said, after his team eventually became successful, he wanted something to help him remember the tough years in New Orleans.

Sentiment aside, it might be the right time for the Miller family to sell the name to back to Benson for, say, $25 million.

Think about it.

For the price of one journeyman-type free agent, Benson gets his New Orleans-related name.

Meanwhile, the Millers make a lot of money and take another step toward the long-term viability of the franchise in Utah.

First, they get the agreed-upon sale price by simply signing away a nickname that, quite honestly, has been illogical all along.

Second, they pocket millions more by marketing a new line of player jerseys, apparel and other team-related merchandise.

Before you laugh, I should remind you: The idea of selling the Jazz nickname back to New Orleans has been previously considered.

In 2002, the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans.

After the first season in their new home, one of the team's owners told reporters he would love to reacquire the name.

Strange as it might sound to Jazz loyalists, the late Larry Miller, whose business acumen helped turned Utah a model small-market franchise, wasn't completely opposed to the idea.

"I'm willing to sit down and talk about it," Miller said at the time.

Eventually, nothing came of the endeavor. But it might be the perfect time to revisit it.

Benson is the sole owner of the Hornets. He also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints.

Like Miller, he is a shrewd businessman who has vowed to keep his NBA team playing in New Orleans Arena.

So, if the Millers sold the nickname to him, they wouldn't have to worry about someday seeing the Kansas City Jazz, the Seattle Jazz or the Long Island Jazz on their schedule.

Personally, I believe the idea of selling the nickname back to New Orleans is worthy of consideration — now more than ever.

For the right price, I think everyone in Utah might enjoy the buzz and the bottom line that would result from renaming the Jazz.

How about the Utah Olympians?

Or the Utah Lakers?

Oh, wait. That one's already taken.

luhm@sltrib.com

No word from Jazz if name is negotiable

Memphis, Tenn. • Utah Jazz officials have not responded to an inquiry by The Salt Lake Tribune, asking whether the team would be interested in negotiating the rights to its nickname with New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson.

A Jazz spokesman said Friday night that CEO Greg Miller and team president Randy Rigby attended the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York.

Benson's purchase of the Hornets was announced Friday afternoon after a Board of Governors meeting.

Coach Tyrone Corbin said Saturday he doesn't want Utah to give the "Jazz" back to New Orleans.

"I'm sure it'll work itself out, but we can't give up our name," Corbin said.

Brian T. Smith