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Hornets Insider: Road Rules
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
November 15, 2011

Prior to the New Orleans Hornets surge in national popularity over the past half-decade, it was relatively common to attend a Hornets road game and not spot any fans in the audience rooting for the visiting team. Nowadays, thats changed noticeably, to the point where every NOLA away game includes at least a portion of the crowd wearing Creole blue and cheering for the Hornets.

While the additional support has made the atmosphere in road venues slightly more hospitable for the Hornets, its interesting to note that the teams home-road success falls almost exactly in line with that of the rest of the NBA.

Statistical studies have shown that home teams win roughly 60 percent of the time in the NBA regular season, a greater advantage than that of hosts in the NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball (in that order). Since moving to the Crescent City in 2002-03, the Hornets are a combined 223-146 in home games, a success rate of 60.4 percent. In road games during the same nine-season span, the Hornets have compiled nearly the exact converse of that mark, at 148-221, or a 40.1 winning percentage.

The reasons behind NBA teams drastic differential in home and road effectiveness are perhaps too numerous to list, but some of the drop-off can be attributed to an often daunting travel schedule. How does an NBA team determine when it departs for road games? How does a squad attempt to minimize wear-and-tear? Here are a few road rules that govern an NBA teams itinerary during the season:

1) Travel to road games is a day-before operation.
Regardless of a trips destination from New Orleans, if the Hornets have a Tuesday road game, for example, they always fly to that city on Monday afternoon. They will usually practice in the morning, then depart from the NOLA airport in the mid-afternoon hours. Even when an NBA team has back-to-back road games, it will fly from the first city to the second city immediately after the first game, even if that means wheels up sometime around 11 p.m. or midnight.

2) Back-to-back games bring at least one silver lining.
Partly in order to reduce fatigue, both physically and mentally, its somewhat standard operation procedure for NBA teams to schedule an off day following back-to-back games. On average, coaches and players receive only about two or three off days per month (with off day defined here as no game or practice scheduled), so this can be a much-appreciated respite. A day off following back-to-backs has been the Hornets general policy under all recent head coaches, including Monty Williams.

3) Travel is part of virtually every back-to-back.
Based on the way the NBA schedule is created, its extremely rare for an NBA team to play home games on consecutive nights. For instance, the only time its occurred for the Hornets in recent memory was January 2007. But even that homestand involved a flight the Hornets played a Friday game in New Orleans, then traveled to their temporary home in Oklahoma City for a Saturday game.

4) Early-morning returns to NOLA are a fact of life.
When the Hornets return to the Crescent City following a West Coast road trip, they almost always have another home game scheduled to begin in less than 48 hours. So even if a trek to the Pacific time zone concludes 2,000 miles away in a city such as Portland or Los Angeles, the Hornets head out after the game in order to be back in Louisiana as soon as possible.

As a result, there are multiple instances throughout each NBA season in which their flight is the only one landing at Louis Armstrong International in the wee hours of the morning. On the flip side, trips to Southwest Division cities Dallas, Houston, Memphis and San Antonio result in a much more reasonable time of arrival back in NOLA (incidentally, those cities particularly the Texas locations also have the most hostile home crowds toward the Hornets, due partly to heated postseason series with the Mavericks and Spurs).

Although bleary-eyed arrivals at the local airport are one of the least enjoyable aspects of the NBA season, there have been a few occasions where the landing was made a bit softer by the presence of a few unexpected airport guests. After a 6-0 road trip in March 2008 arguably the Hornets most successful excursion in franchise history coaches and players were greeted by a group of fans at the Kenner airport, a welcome-home tradition that was started years ago by New Orleans Saints fans. A similar group of supporters was on hand in April 08, after the Hornets took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

In a way, those scenes captured what might be one of the best aspects of going on the road the knowledge that when the trip is over, you always get to return home.



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