Pelicans remember Tom Benson

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METAIRIE, La. -- The Pelicans returned to their Metairie practice facility Friday, where Gayle Benson spoke to the team before their workout.

"Her showing-up-- especially so soon after-- shows how much she cares about us," said Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. "She thanked us for all the kind words and gestures that we've done for her, but we just want to thank them. Mr. Benson's done so much for us and the organization, for us and our team, as well as Mrs. Benson. So for her to show-up was really big and important to us."

With the passing of Mr. Benson, Mrs. Benson is now the owner of the Saints and the Pelicans.

"Obviously we think the world of her," said Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry. "We don't have any doubt that it's going to be a smooth transition and everything is going to still remain at a real high level and a real first class level."

Mr. Benson was heavily involved with both teams, and was constantly around the facility, stopping by practices and interacting with the players-- something everyone took notice of and appreciated.

"Every time somebody talks about him, it's always about how nice he was and how he'd come and check-in every day," Holiday said. "He'd literally come into the office every single day. I know if I had his position, I probably wouldn't be in there every day to be completely honest. I think things like that carry a long way and people see that."

"Just the dedication that he had here and then just the love that he had for the teams that he owned," Gentry said. "He came into the locker room after the game and the guys would have him come into the huddle after wins and he'd put his hand in and one, two, three. I thought he got pure joy out of just being in there. He loved being around the players and he would come over here some days and just sit down and watch practice for a few minutes and enjoy watching it and leave."

The Pelicans return to action Saturday night when they host the Rockets, beginning a brutal stretch where they've got 6 games in 8 days. With the Western Conference playoff race as tight as ever, the sense of urgency to keep winning remains high. The Pels are currently 6th in the standings-- a half game behind the Timberwolves in 5th and a half game ahead of the Jazz and Spurs. The 3rd through 10th spots are separated by just 4.5 games.
"I have no doubt that there's going to be a lot of movement," Gentry said. "There's 8 teams that's playing for 6 spots. We've put ourselves in a situation where we've done a good job of winning on the road and now we have 9 home games and 5 road games so it's going to be very important for us to take care of business."
 The team has been determined to make the playoffs all season, with a culture of wanting to win coming from the top. It's something the Pels want to do more than ever-- especially with Mr. Benson in mind.
 "We want to go out and play as hard as we can for him but at the same time, we want to do it for ourselves," Holiday said. "We want to win just as much as he wanted to."
The Pelicans plan to have a moment of silence before Saturday's game to honor the memory of Mr. Benson.