NOLA home game vs. Heat highlights preseason

Thursday, August 12, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

This morning the Hornets officially announced their eight-game preseason schedule, which begins here Oct. 9 vs. Memphis. Without a doubt, the highlight of the slate is a home game in the New Orleans Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 13 against the star-studded Miami Heat. As it turns out, well before the Heat’s trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh officially became teammates in early July, the Hornets signed a five-year agreement with the Heat to alternate preseason games in each other’s arenas. That means that Miami will also visit New Orleans during the 2012 and 2014 preseasons (the contracts signed by the “Big Three” with the Heat last throughout the entire timeframe).

Two of the first three preseason games are in New Orleans, with the final five games being played in other locations. A couple other things to note on the team’s 2010 preseason:
• Hornets Media Day is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 27. Players must report to New Orleans by that date, but in the past, multiple Hornets have arrived earlier in order to begin informally meeting and preparing for training camp.
• The Hornets’ second preseason game is Oct. 10 in Orlando, which will be the first-ever NBA game played in the Magic’s brand-new arena.
• The Hornets generally play at least one off-site "home" game each preseason. In the past the team has been in places such as Biloxi, Miss., or Mobile, Ala. This year’s game is Oct. 16 vs. Atlanta on the campus of East Tennessee State University.
• The reason for the unusual start time of 10 a.m. Central for the Oct. 20 game in Charlotte is that the Bobcats host an annual preseason game attended largely by schoolchildren from the Carolinas. The Bobcats always schedule the game early enough (11 a.m. Eastern in this case) so that the kids are able to be on their buses home by the end of the school day.

Twitter Feedback: Trades, TV details, uni numbers

This is the third installment of “Twitter Feedback,” a new feature in which beat writer Jim Eichenhofer responds to team-related questions sent to his Twitter page ( in much greater detail. Because let’s face it – sometimes 140 characters isn’t nearly enough.

From @IsikSaban: What do you think about the trades? Is Ariza worth giving up on Collison?
Starting with the less complicated trade, I thought the Marco Belinelli deal made a lot of sense in terms of fit with the Hornets’ roster. Belinelli’s most prominent strength is his perimeter shooting, an area where New Orleans needed to improve significantly – at least among its wing players at small forward and shooting guard. The Hornets ranked a very respectable eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage last season (36.3), but oddly enough, their point guards were a huge reason for that high ranking. If you take away Chris Paul and Darren Collison – both of whom shot at least 40 percent – the team’s accuracy drops markedly. While Peja Stojakovic (37.5 percent) and Marcus Thornton (37.4) were both above average from beyond the arc, fellow wing players Morris Peterson and James Posey were under 40 percent overall from the floor. Belinelli is a career 38.8 percent shooter from three-point range. He’s also a decent ballhandler and passer, particularly for a natural shooting guard. In terms of Julian Wright’s departure, the Hornets already had a serious logjam at small forward. It’s not certain he would’ve been able to crack the rotation in 2010-11 had he remained on the roster.

The other trade obviously involves many more factors and is much tougher to quickly assess. Part of the complexity is that the contract situations of the three players (Ariza, Collison, Posey) factored into the trade. Furthermore, I don’t know if you can assess whether it was “worth” trading Collison to get Ariza until the season begins. But let’s start with the notion that Collison’s trade value was at an extremely high level this summer, possibly as high as it might get in the near future. If Paul is healthy in 2010-11 – don’t forget, he’s played 78-plus games in three of his five NBA seasons – it’s doubtful Collison would’ve been able to log more than about 20 minutes per game, thereby reducing his stats and maybe his value on the trade market. The Hornets’ front office said multiple times Wednesday that it was disappointed to lose Collison, but that the NBA All-Rookie first-team member had to be included in the trade in order for it to be completed. Meanwhile, Ariza’s athleticism and defensive acumen are two things the Hornets badly needed at small forward. I don’t think it’s too much of a reach to say that New Orleans was one of the least athletic teams in the NBA last season. Ariza’s offensive game has improved, although he is still a below-average perimeter shooter based on the numbers, but I don’t think the Hornets will need him to put up gaudy scoring numbers. If he excels in the other areas where he’s already proven to be very good, that alone could make a major difference next season. I’m really looking forward to seeing how much the Hornets may improve defensively now that they have someone who can match up on the wing against some of the NBA’s most explosive scorers.

From @LSUhornet17: Still only 65 games televised this season by Cox Sports TV? With only one national TV game, that means more games we don’t get to see at all. (The games Cox Sports does not broadcast) better all be at home.
The reason Cox is carrying 65 games once again is because that’s part of the contract the station signed to have exclusive local rights to the Hornets. This will be Cox’s ninth season carrying Hornets games; they have always had a 65-game schedule since the team arrived in New Orleans in 2002. That means that each season there are always 17 regular season games of the 82 not carried locally. It’s difficult to predict which games Cox will choose not to show, because it’s dependent on various factors such as conflicts with other sports that are certain to draw large viewership in the Gulf South (such as college football and the New Orleans Saints during November and December). For example, I’m going to make an educated guess and predict that the Hornets’ Dec. 27 game at the Minnesota Timberwolves will not be carried by Cox, because the Saints are playing on Monday Night Football at the same time that evening against the Atlanta Falcons. Over the past few seasons, there has usually been about a 50-50 split between home and road games Cox has broadcast. Cox will be announcing its 65-game schedule later in the fall, so we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll obviously have those details on when they become available.

From @ScottandEmily: Is Cox Sports Television still going to broadcast Hornets games in Pensacola? Last year was the first year; I watched every game.
To be honest, prior to seeing this question on Twitter, I was not aware that Hornets games could be broadcast in the state of Florida. However, I was told by the Hornets’ broadcasting department that it’s OK for an NBA team to televise games that are NOT within a 75-mile radius of another NBA franchise. Since the panhandle portion of the state of Florida does not fall within the Orlando Magic’s 75-mile geographic area, Cox Sports TV viewers are able to watch Hornets games from their homes. Incidentally, Cox Sports TV also televises the Hornets to large portions of Mississippi and Alabama.

From @HenrySure: Are national TV networks able to make changes to the schedule during the season based on how teams are doing?
Yes, national networks such as ESPN, ABC and TNT have the ability to make changes to their broadcast schedules as the NBA regular season progresses. The networks usually notify NBA teams of changes they are planning to make roughly 2-3 weeks before the date of a specific game. In the Hornets’ case, hopefully they’ll be able to “earn” more than the one national TV appearance they currently are scheduled to make in 2010-11 (March 6 at Cleveland, ESPN). In one example from last season, Milwaukee was initially not scheduled at all for national TV, but networks added Bucks games later in 2009-10 due to the team’s surprising improvement and the entertaining emergence of rookie point guard Brandon Jennings. One other thing I should point out about getting national TV games added is that it’s really mostly an ESPN thing. TNT shows games almost exclusively on Thursdays, but the Hornets only have one Thursday game in 2010-11 (March 24 at Utah). The bulk of ESPN’s NBA broadcasts are on Wednesdays and Fridays, so those are the days of the week in which New Orleans could potentially see more exposure. Let’s hope for a repeat of the 2007-08 season, when the Hornets were only scheduled to appear on national TV twice, but ended up receiving additional games due to their surprising 56-win campaign and Southwest Division title.

From @oceanback: Who from the Hornets will be at Hornets Night at Zephyr Field this Sunday night? Any players or coaches?
For fans who may not be aware of what @oceanback is referencing here, the Hornets and the local Triple-A baseball team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, have begun a summer tradition that continues on Aug. 15. The second annual “Hornets Night at Zephyr Field” will feature the Zephyrs (Class AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins) hosting the Reno Aces at 6 p.m. Sunday. For a second straight year, Zephyrs players will be wearing special Hornets-themed uniforms during the game. All Hornets season ticket holders have been invited to attend the game, which will feature many of the in-game entertainment aspects of Hornets home games (Honeybees, Used to Bees, etc.). To answer the question from @oceanback, Hornets head coach Monty Williams will represent the organization at the game. He is scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

From @andrewmarden: Do you know what number Quincy Pondexter will wear this season?
Pondexter will wear uniform No. 20, the same number he wore in college at the University of Washington. Fellow rookie Craig Brackins will wear No. 21, also the digits he had at Iowa State. Pondexter sported No. 20 during the final two years of his college career at UW. He was forced to don a different number earlier in his college days, because one of his older teammates with the Huskies already had dibs on No. 20. In case you were curious, the most recent Hornets player to wear No. 20 was Alex Garcia, while No. 21 was last donned by Marcus Fizer.

After I mentioned on Twitter that Milwaukee was an unexpected choice for an opening game opponent, I received this interesting fact from @PorcheStats: It’s true that Milwaukee isn’t a usual rival but the Hornets have played more games vs. the Bucks than any other team.
It’s initially surprising that Milwaukee has been the most common regular season opponent of the Hornets, but since the Hornets were members of the old Central Division from 1990-91 through 2003-04, you knew it had to be either the Bucks, Bulls, Hawks, Cavaliers, Pistons or Pacers (the Raptors were also in the division, but did not join until 1995-96). According to the Hornets’ media guide, they have faced the Bucks 80 times (Hornets are 48-32 in the series), at least three more matchups than against any other foe.