The NBA released its official 2010-11 regular season schedule today. Here are a few thoughts on what I like and don’t like about the schedule from a Hornets perspective:
A home-heavy finish
Eleven of the Hornets’ final 16 games will be contested in the New Orleans Arena, a very favorable close to 2010-11 that could allow them to make a late push in the standings. It’s generally rare to have a homestand of five games or longer, but the Hornets actually have two of them over a 30-day span, both between March 9 and April 8. Based on traditional travel plans, the team will spend only five days outside of Louisiana during that timeframe.
Stars visit early
Last season, neither of the biggest road draws in the NBA (Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland) came to New Orleans until March. This time, the new anticipated huge road attraction (Miami) is here in the fifth overall and third Hornets home game, while the Lakers come to town twice before the All-Star break, on Dec. 29 and Feb. 5.
Early-season practice time
On average, NBA teams play every other day during the regular season, but the Hornets have a few somewhat extended breaks between game action, which could mean more practices early in the season. They have a pair of three-day breaks (Oct. 31-Nov. 2, Nov. 10-12) during the first two weeks of the schedule.
Only one national TV game
It’s really not surprising that the number of national TV appearances for the Hornets declined (from the nine they received last season), because they missed the playoffs with a 37-45 record. But to drop all the way to a solitary game was somewhat stunning. That’s the fewest scheduled national TV games in a season for New Orleans since 2005-06, when they were coming off a forgettable 18-64 campaign.
Nine of the first 11 games are against opponents that qualified for the 2010 playoffs, including road games at San Antonio, Milwaukee and Dallas. Among the first 17 games – a stretch that concludes at the end of November – 13 opponents are coming off postseason berths.
Mardi Gras road trip March 1-7
Due to the potential logistical problems in downtown New Orleans that would be created by doing so, the NBA never schedules the Hornets to play at home during the close of Mardi Gras. In 2011, Mardi Gras Day is Tuesday, March 8. As a result, New Orleans will have a five-game road trek in early March. The Hornets return to the Hive on Wednesday, March 9 to host Dallas.
Making way for March Madness
The New Orleans Arena is hosting the regional championship round of the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which necessitated a Hornets road trip March 24-27. While March Madness is taking place in Louisiana, the Hornets will go on a daunting Western swing to visit Utah, Phoenix and the Lakers.
Wolves, Warriors visit NOLA once
Based on the NBA’s rotating schedule-distribution policy, each season there are four Western Conference teams that the Hornets face three times, instead of four. In 2010-11, those clubs are Minnesota, Golden State, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Timberwolves and Warriors only come to the Big Easy once, while New Orleans makes just one trip apiece to Denver and the Clippers.
Home games tip at 7 p.m., with five exceptions
Once again this season, home games at the New Orleans Arena will start at 7 p.m., but there are five exceptions based on the game being played either on a Sunday or a national holiday. The following home games at the Arena do NOT start at 7 p.m.:
• Sunday, Nov. 28 vs. San Antonio, 2 p.m.
• Sunday, Dec. 26 vs. Atlanta, 6 p.m.
• Monday, Jan. 17 vs. Toronto, 2 p.m. (Martin Luther King Day)
• Sunday, Feb. 27 vs. Houston, 6 p.m.
• Sunday, April 3 vs. Indiana, 6 p.m.
Incidentally, neither the Nov. 28 nor Dec. 26 games coincide with a New Orleans Saints game day. During Week 12 of the NFL regular season, the Saints play on Thanksgiving (Nov. 25) in Dallas. During Week 16, the world champions play a Monday night (Dec. 27) road game at the Atlanta Falcons. Due to parking and logistical issues, the NBA and NFL also always avoid scheduling the Saints and Hornets to play home games on the same day.