Road improvement will be early-season key for Pelicans

During the inaugural New Orleans Pelicans season, the club won nearly twice as many games in the confines of Smoothie King Center (22-19 record) as it did on the road (12-29). For the Pelicans to contend for a Western Conference playoff berth in 2014-15, they’ll have to perform much better outside the state of Louisiana – particularly early in the regular season.

From opening night Oct. 28 through the first 10 days of December, the Pelicans will play two-thirds of their games on the road, a 21-game span that includes 13 road contests. For New Orleans to get off to a fast start, it will have to pick up victories in some of the NBA’s toughest venues. Of those 13 away tilts, nine are against opponents that reached the postseason in 2014 (and one of the non-playoff foes is greatly improved Cleveland).

The early-season home schedule is a bit more hospitable, on paper at least. Of the first seven Smoothie King Center games, four feature visitors that were not in the playoffs last season. The three early Crescent City guests coming off postseason trips are Dallas, Charlotte and Oklahoma City.

Home sweet home in second half While the first half of the season is brutal in terms of travel, the schedule flips in a favorable direction in late January. Over the Pelicans’ final 41 games, 23 will be played in Smoothie King Center. New Orleans has five three-game homestands (one in January, two in February, two in March).

All-Star break coincides with Mardi Gras One of the much-discussed aspects of the new NBA schedule is its lengthened All-Star break. The Pelicans will benefit significantly, with a nine-day break between games Feb. 11 and 20. This season’s All-Star festivities are taking place in New York City, with the All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden. For avid Pelicans fans partaking in Mardi Gras festivities, the expanded break also comes at a fortuitous time. Mardi Gras day in 2015 is Tuesday, Feb. 17, meaning New Orleans will not have to go on its usual multi-day Mardi Gras road trip. Instead, the team will be off during the culmination of Mardi Gras, with no conflicts between games and the celebration.