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The New Orleans Pelicans 

click to enlarge Center/forward Anthony Davis brings a strong start to the New Orleans Pelicans' first season.

PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

Center/forward Anthony Davis brings a strong start to the New Orleans Pelicans' first season.

New Orleans' excitement for its new basketball team and new attractions at the Arena will culminate when the city hosts the NBA's All-Star Weekend Feb. 14-16, 2014.

  "Considering the success of the Super Bowl, I don't know if you could say there's a better city for hosting big events than New Orleans," says Lindsey Mitchell, corporate communications manager for the newly hatched New Orleans Pelicans (www.nba.com/pelicans). "The NBA has a very large international fan base and this weekend will put New Orleans and the Pelicans in the spotlight. It's another opportunity for us to show that we have a lot to offer."

  For basketball fans, everything is new this year: New name, new players, a new mascot (more on him later), new attractions at the New Orleans Arena and, most important to fans, a new start in the chase for the city's first NBA World Championship — which, considering the strong start of rising star Anthony Davis (averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game as of press time) in his second season and the nucleus of talent built around the center/forward, offers new hope for hoops dreamers.

  "There's lots of reason for that excitement," Mitchell says, adding the Pelicans sold 12,000 season tickets this year. "We have great players coming back, but also new faces, a new practice facility, a new name and look, and improvements to the arena that enhance the fan experience."

  Before New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson purchased the team, there was much speculation about the NBA's future in a small-market, football-mad city without local ownership to tether it here. Benson's first priority was to create a new mascot, one that reflects the region. Enter Pierre.

  "There is no better representation of New Orleans and [the] state of Louisiana than the pelican," Mitchell says. "It's our state bird, on the state flag and a big part of the history of the whole region." The mascot's gawky costume has gotten a lot of attention on sports pages, blogs and late-night talk shows and helped emphasize there's a new team in New Orleans.

  Fans going to Pelicans games this season also are tasting a slew of changes made at the Arena during the offseason. A new food vendor (which consulted with chef John Besh on menu items) offers interesting new options such as seafood mac-and-cheese and bruschetta waffle fries.

  The Chairman's Club is a new VIP lounge; single-game passes are sold to the Capital One Lounge, which offers free food and an expanded outdoor area. In the 300 level, a new section features a bar area, high-top tables and a social atmosphere where fans can meet and chat as well as cheer.

  All this excitement for the NBA and the new attractions at the Arena will hit its height during next February's All-Star Weekend. Until then, New Orleans can enjoy Davis and his teammates —and, of course, Pierre.

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