Tom Benson

Gayle Benson Vows To Remain Pelicans’ Owner

Gayle Benson, the widow of long-time Pelicans owner Tom Benson, vowed on Monday that she’ll retain ownership in the franchise, according to a New Orleans Advocate report.

Gayle Benson’s commitment to the franchise had been in doubt, particularly after superstar Anthony Davis made his trade demand this winter. Benson, who also controls ownership of the Saints, made her intentions clear at an NFL owners meeting.

“There is no way I’m going to sell that team (the Pelicans) ever,” Benson said.

The Pelicans are valued at $1.2 billion, according to Forbes’ most recent rankings, which is second-to-last in the league ahead of only the Grizzlies, the report notes. Their lease at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans runs through 2024.

We have more on Benson’s plans for the franchise:

  • Saints GM Mickey Loomis will focus exclusively on the football team going forward, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets.  He previously had oversight duties for both teams. Danny Ferry has been running the front office as the interim GM since Benson fired Dell Demps shortly after the February trade deadline. The new GM will oversee basketball operations and report directly to Benson, Duncan adds.
  • The outside consultant being used to conduct the GM search has recommended five or six candidates for the position, Duncan reports in another tweet. Benson and team president Dennis Lauscha will make the hire with Loomis also providing his input, Duncan adds.
  • Benson said there are no plans to relocate the Pelicans. Their lease at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans runs through 2024. “People are going to talk and there’s really nothing you can do about that,” Benson said, per Duncan. “Time will take care of it. They’ll see that I’m sincere and I’m not going anywhere.”

Southwest Notes: Pelicans Future, Spurs, Tucker, Grizzlies

The recent death of owner Tom Benson could eventually result in the Pelicans franchise leaving New Orleans, Tom Ziller of SB Nation discusses in a detailed column. The Pelicans signed a lease six years ago to stay in New Orleans until 2024, but it’s still possible that the franchise could try to break that lease.

Even if Benson’s widow Gayle decides against that, the team’s current arena is 19 years old and will require major renovations if it’s not replaced altogether, Ziller notes. Should the team struggle to get funding for a building upgrade, it could grease the skids for a move, Ziller adds.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • The adversity that the Spurs have faced this season has brought the team closer together, coach Gregg Popovich told the media, including ESPN’s Michael C. Wright. The reserves have received more opportunities to play and team members are pulling for one another, according to Popovich. “It’s rewarding to see guys react to the minutes that they’re getting; some of these young guys that haven’t played much,” he said. “The way they reach out to each other and stay good teammates while the lineups have constantly changed, they’ve shown a lot of empathy and patience with each other in that regard. And I think that has allowed them to keep their heads up.”
  • Rockets forward P.J. Tucker has never been named to the All-Defensive team and coach Mike D’Antoni believes that should change this season. “It doesn’t get much better than him,” D’Antoni told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets’ defense ranks third in the league since Tucker became a starter, Feigen notes.
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace will be looking for better shooters during the offseason, as he told Michael Wallace from the team’s website during a Q&A session. Asked about the upcoming draft, Wallace spoke in general terms about what type of players he’d target. “As far as our team need, you can always use outside shooting in the NBA of 2018,” he said. “It’s such a premium placed on the three-point shot, you can never have enough guys who can shoot the three. We also have to get more and more athletic.”
  • Mavs guard Dennis Smith Jr. will miss at least the next two games with an ankle sprain, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. The team will play it safe with its star rookie but have no plans to shut him down. “He’s going to be out for a while, but it’s not serious,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Benson, Gentry, Jackson

Pelicans owner Tom Benson passed away earlier this week at 90 years old. Benson, who struggled for almost a month with flu-like symptoms, has been posthumously honored by many in the sports world and earned praise for his efforts to keep professional football and basketball in the city of New Orleans.

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis was among those to speak highly of Benson. Davis sent out a tweet thanking Benson for all his contributions, both to him personally and the city of New Orleans, William Guillory of relays.

“Mr. Benson has meant so much to this city & to my career in NOLA,” Davis said in the tweet. “Mr. B & his wife Gayle treated me like family since I arrived & I’m forever indebted to them for their kindness & generosity.”

Check out more notes from the Pelicans below:

  • Following Tom Benson’s death, it was reported that his wife, Gayle Benson, would take over as the owner of the Pelicans. In a statement released to, Benson promised to do her best to ensure future success for both the Saints and Pelicans. “I would like to assure you that we planned carefully for this day and, while my husband could never be replaced, I am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful leadership team and staff and we will move forward successfully together,” Gayle said in the statement. “We cannot thank you enough for all of the joy you gave my husband and will continue to do everything within our power to make you proud of our teams and city.”
  • Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has been fined $15K for critical comments of the officials in the team’s loss to the Rockets on Saturday, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the Pelicans have given up on rookie Frank Jackson playing this season. Jackson suffered a foot fracture in August and despite a modest three to four-month recovery projection, Jackson did recover as hoped. The team has denied that any setbacks occurred.

Pelicans Owner Tom Benson Dies

New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson died on Thursday following a near month-long battle with flu-like symptoms, the Pelicans confirmed in a press release. He was 90 years old.

Benson is credited with saving both of his franchises from relocating. He purchased the Saints in 1985 as the team was set to relocate; he also bought the then-Hornets in 2012 and promptly renamed them to the Pelicans. Benson was the only person to own two major sports teams located in his hometown, per The New Orleans Advocate.

Under Benson’s ownership, the Saints captured a Super Bowl in 2010. The Pelicans compiled a 202-266 under his watch, but are on track for a postseason berth this season.

The plan is for Benson’s wife, Gayle Benson, to assume control of both New Orleans franchises, Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Advocate writes.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Okafor, Benson, Grizzlies

The strange injury situation with the Spurs and superstar Kawhi Leonard took an unexpected turn earlier this week. Head coach Gregg Popovich said that it is unlikely that Leonard returns this season. A separate report indicated that Leonard — who has been medically cleared to resume his return — has personally made the decision to remain inactive.

Leonard, last year’s third-place finisher in MVP voting, has missed all but nine games this season. The Spurs have not missed much of a step without Leonard, wielding the third-best record in the Western Conference (35-24). Leonard’s longtime teammate and Spurs legend, Manu Ginobili, weighed in on the situation.

“Nobody is in his body,” Ginobili said, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter). “He feels the way he feels and we don’t know. Yeah, we know he has been cleared. But, again, if he is feeling pain, isn’t sure, he is not ready to come back, then he’s not.”

Check out other Southwest Division notes:

  • Emeka Okafor has fought his way back to the NBA and earned a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pelicans, Rod Walker of The New Orleans Advocate writes that Okafor, a former second overall pick, is glad to be back in the league. “It’s been an awesome ride so far,” Okafor said. ” I’m happy to be here trying to earn my way back in. Now that I’m back, it feels good and it feels natural. I’m going to keep on going until I’m told otherwise.”
  • Pelicans owner Tom Benson was recently admitted to a Louisiana medical facility after experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Benson, 90, is resting comfortably and is receiving top-notch care, per the statement.
  • The Grizzlies are finishing up a poor season that will not end in a postseason berth, but the team – led by veteran Marc Gasol and interim head coach J.B Bickerstaff – wants to finish the year well, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes.

Western Rumors: Len, Ball, Mavs, Benson

Suns center Alex Len didn’t receive an offer sheet as a restricted free agent this summer but he’s pumping up his value during the early going, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Len is averaging 10.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG and one scout told Bordow that Len could receive a four-year deal worth up to $15MM per season if he continues his strong play. Len signed his qualifying offer of $4.2MM in late September after his unsuccessful foray into restricted free agency.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball told reporters that as a floor leader he prefers “to take the blame when we lose,” Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Ball committed five turnovers in a loss to the Jazz on Saturday. Ball also believes he needs to push the ball more efficiently, Youngmisuk adds. “More pace, run on makes — I feel like we are kind of walking up the ball too much,” Ball said. “And that is obviously my fault because I am the point guard so just got to push the pace a little better.”
  • Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is considering lineup changes after his team got off to a 1-6 start, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. “We’re looking at things all the time,” Carlisle told Sefko and other reporters.“If you’re asking about a change to the starting lineup or rotation, any and everything is in play at this point.”
  • Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson was hospitalized Sunday night but is expected to return to his office by the end of the week, according to a statement released by a Saints spokesman. Benson felt weakness while attending the Saints game on Sunday, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
  • Tyson Chandler shrugs off the rumors that the Suns are trying to deal him, Bordow reports. The team is reportedly trying to package him in any deal involving disgruntled point man Eric Bledsoe. “Just like everybody else, I hear the rumblings,” he said. “I hear my name being involved in things and trade rumors but I’m at the point where I couldn’t care less.”

Pelicans Still Evaluating Gentry, Demps

Coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps remain on “day-to-day” status in New Orleans, and there’s not a set deadline for the organization to make a decision about their future, writes Scott Kushner for The Advocate.

The choice will be made by owner Tom Benson and senior VP of basketball operations Mickey Loomis, who are weighing a number of factors in deciding whether to keep both men. The Pelicans would seemingly want to have the issue addressed well before the June 22nd draft and the July 1st start of free agency, but Kushner notes that seven years ago, Demps was hired on July 20th.

Demps has held the job through three ownership groups, producing mixed results. Under his reign, the team has a 237-321 record with playoff appearances in 2011 and 2015. Demps drafted Anthony Davis in 2012 and got him to agree to an extension through 2021. He also swung a huge deal for DeMarcus Cousins at this year’s All-Star break, which may buy Demps some time in his position if the franchise waits to see how the Davis-Cousins pairing pans out.

“We certainly saw an uptick in the energy around the team since [Cousins] got here,” team president Dennis Lauscha said last month. “We’ve seen a big uptick in renewals, and we’ve seen an uptick in sponsorships already. Listen, he’s been great for the organization. He’s a great guy, and he’s already volunteered to do community stuff. We love having him as a part of our organization.”

However, Demps also has several prominent mistakes on his record, such as giving Omer Asik $58MM over five years in 2015 and giving up five of the team’s last six draft picks in deals for veterans.

Demps will also be evaluated on his decision to hire Gentry. The former Warriors assistant promised an up-tempo approach to better showcase Davis’ talents, but a two-year run of injuries has gotten in the way. With a 64-100 record in New Orleans, Gentry has one more guaranteed year on his contract, then a $4MM team option on the final season.
Loomis and Benson must decide whether they think the Demps-Gentry pairing will ever be successful and whether stability is more valuable than an immediate change would be. The organization could decide to keep both, fire both or just replace one, and the decision could be made at any time.

“I walk in here every day excited about my job,” Demps said after the season ended. “I don’t ever feel the pressure or anything like that. Right now, we’re in evaluation mode. We’re going to sit back and meet with Alvin. We’re going to sit back and go over the whole season. I think we’ve had a lot of challenges this year. But I do like the direction and path that we’re headed [on].”

Pelicans Notes: Team Ownership, Asik, Hill, Jones

Tom Benson, owner of the Pelicans and New Orleans Saints, reached a settlement with his estranged heirs, Brett Martel of the Associated Press reports. Benson, 89, had sought to prevent his daughter and her children from inheriting shares of each team (more than 90% of the Pelicans’ non-voting stock, according to ESPN). Had Benson not reached a settlement with his heirs, a trial would have been set to take place Monday, February 6. Benson, who bought the Pelicans (then the New Orleans Hornets) for $338MM in 2012, will maintain controlling shares of each team after the settlement.

More surrounding the Pelicans…

  • Jim Eichenhofer of praised Terrence Jones‘ pump fake, calling it one of the league’s most unique and effective moves. Jones has enjoyed a stellar bounceback season in New Orleans, averaging 15.7 points with 5.3 rebounds over his last six games. “It’s so damn slow, and it looks just like his shot,” teammate Dante Cunningham said of Jones’ pump fake. “The thing is, you don’t always immediately close out to him, because he’s not necessarily going to kill you with his jump shot, because he’d rather drive and get to the rim. But you watch him and he does it so slowly that you think, ‘Oh, he has to shoot this one,’ so you contest it, but then by the time you get there, he’s still pump-faking.” A free agent-to-be on an affordable contract, Jones is likely to generate interest as the trade deadline approaches.
  • John Reid of had several interesting observations in his Twitter mailbag. Reid endorsed the idea of New Orleans pursuing Wilson Chandler of the Nuggets, calling him an ideal player to use alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. Reid lamented the team’s lack of offense, claiming they “just don’t have enough scoring threats on the roster.”
  • Pelicans GM Dell Demps should be making every effort to unload Tyreke Evans, Alexis Ajinca, and Omer Asik via trade, Reid writes. Additionally, Solomon Hill– inked to a four-year, $48MM contract over the offseason- has not performed up to team expectations. Whereas the team expected Hill to develop into a two-way player, his contributions have largely come on the defensive end.

Southwest Notes: Barnes, Benson, Jones

Harrison Barnes has a new $94MM contract, but he tells Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News that he considers the Mavericks to still be Dirk Nowitzki‘s team. Barnes inked a four-year deal with Dallas in July after the Warriors signed Kevin Durant. Owner Mark Cuban has indicated that the Mavericks want Barnes to expand his game and claim a larger role of the offense than he did in Golden State. However, the 24-year-old small forward recognizes the special place that Nowitzki has earned during his 18 seasons in Dallas. “He’s put in the years and won a championship,” Barnes said. “But I have to go out and earn that. People assume that just because you get paid a lot of money and have a lot of attention that all of the sudden you’re guaranteed this many shots. I have to prove that every day in practice. I have to prove that to the coaching staff, and ultimately, if I’m going to be the guy taking shots, I’ve got to prove it to Dirk.”

There’s more news out of the Southwest Division:

  • December 8th has been set as the trial date for a suit filed by Tom Benson involving ownership of the Pelicans and Saints, according to Katherine Sayre of the Times-Picayune. The 89-year-old Benson sued last year to take ownership of the teams out of trust funds for his daughter and two grandchildren. In January of 2015, after a falling out with his heirs, Benson said he wanted to grant full ownership of the Pelicans and Saints to his wife, Gayle Benson. The move was blocked by attorneys who served as trustees for the trust funds. The trusts include 95% ownership of the Pelicans and 60% ownership of the Saints. The judge in the case has urged both sides to try to reach a settlement before the trial date.
  • New Pelicans power forward Terrence Jones can’t wait to reunite with former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, tweets Brett Dawson of The New Orleans Advocate. “It’s amazing. The chemistry is just a winning vibe, and I’m very excited,” said the former Rocket, who signed with the Pelicans last month. “We’ve worked out this summer together and really are focused on setting goals and completing them. We really want to make it to the playoffs, and whatever we do in there, we think, is destiny. It’s going to be a great experience.” (Twitter link.)

And-Ones: Holiday, Pelicans, Lakers

Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday might wear protective goggles next season after undergoing eye surgery four months ago, according to John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Holiday fractured the orbital wall around his right eye in late March after colliding with Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis. Holiday is participating in voluntary workouts with teammates in Los Angeles without any medical restrictions, Reid continues. “I’m able to do anything I want,” Holiday told Reid. “It’s been great that I can do things with no restrictions but at the same time I’m being smart with the stuff that I’m doing.”

In other news around the league:

  • Pelicans owner Tom Benson has requested a 45-day extension to finalize a legal settlement agreement involving his estranged heirs’ interest in the team, Katherine Sayre of the New Orleans Times Picayune reports. Benson sued last year to remove shares in the NFL Saints and Pelicans out of trust funds for his daughter and two grandchildren after deciding to instead to give control over the teams to his wife, Gayle Benson, Sayre continues. A confidential settlement was reached in June, Sayre adds.
  • Lakers forward Larry Nance, Jr. is “close to completely healed” from a right wrist sprain, Mike Trudell of TWCSportsNet tweets. Nance Jr. been shooting at the team’s practice facility, Trudell adds. He suffered the injury while playing a Summer League game last month.
  • Former Lakers small forward Devin Ebanks has signed with Reales de La Vega in the Dominican Republic, tweets. Ebanks played in Puerto Rico last season. The 26-year-old Ebanks played three seasons for the Lakers, appearing in 63 games, but hasn’t played an NBA game since 2012/13.