SALT LAKE CITY — Louisiana native Paul Millsap came to the defense of the new nickname that his home state's NBA team will adopt beginning next season.
Well, Millsap sort of came to the defense of the Hornets-turned-Pelicans.
"That’s the state bird," he said, smiling, after being asked for his opinion on New Orleans' impending name change. "I mean, it’s the state bird."
Millsap, a Grambling, La., product, who played for Louisiana Tech, was asked if he has pride in the pelicans.
"I’m from Louisiana, so yeah," he said, chuckling.
That must mean he likes the new name then, right?
"It’s the state bird," he said for the third time, laughing.
It was news to Jazz center Al Jefferson that New Orleans' moniker is getting a reboot.
"I really haven’t thought about it," he said. "I really don’t care, to be honest with you."
Jefferson paused as it sank in what he'd just been told.
"What!?" he asked, incredulously. "Change it to what!?"
Pelicans. Millsap's state bird.
"Whatever floats their boat," Big Al said.
Jefferson said he only knows one thing about a pelican: "It flies."
Apparently, Millsap gave his coach some lessons.
"In the beginning, I didn't understand why Pelicans," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "But it's the state bird, I guess."
If it wasn't, it is now.
In a lighthearted interview moment, Corbin proceeded to share his pelican knowledge with reporters.
"They say pelicans eat live birds. They say the pelican's a mean bird. I've been listening to some of the comments about it," Corbin said, smiling. "I'm not from the state, so I don't understand the significance for them. It represents who they are."
Corbin added that he's heard the reports that Charlotte could get its original NBA name back, ditching Bobcats for Hornets.
"We won't give the Jazz back," he said. "We don't want to do that."
It's possible New Orleans' NBA fans don't want it back now.
Jazz isn't the state bird, after all.
HAYWARD INJURY: Gordon Hayward missed his second straight game with a sprained right shoulder, which was injured in Saturday's overtime win over Indiana.
The Jazz's sixth man is listed to day to day. It remains uncertain if he'll practice Thursday or play Friday against Portland.
"We want to make sure he's well when he gets back. We want him to be healthy for the rest of the year for us," Corbin said. "As bad as I want him back in the lineup, we have to do the smart thing and the right thing by him."
DEFENDING DUNKER: Jazz forward Jeremy Evans still isn't sure if he'll be invited by the NBA to defend his Slam Dunk championship.
Evans said he expects to hear back next week. His agent has let the league know he'd like to participate again during All-Star Weekend in Houston next month.
"We're pushing," Evans said. "We're hoping. We'll see."
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