Lonzo Ball shoots a three-pointer over Kawhi Leonard

Pelicans schedule notebook: Fourteen NBA All-Stars visit NOLA in second half

by Jim Eichenhofer

There’s still a long way to go before the Smoothie King Center can be filled with fans, but the Pelicans recently announced a jump in seating capacity to 2,700. That increase in allowed attendance comes at an optimal time, because New Orleans is about to be visited by a steady stream of some of the NBA’s most marquee teams and players. During the second half of the schedule – which was unveiled Wednesday afternoon – a total of 14 NBA All-Stars will play a game in the Crescent City (15 if you count the Pelicans’ own Zion Williamson).

Partly due to the revised scheduling format for 2020-21, five of those players are actually playing twice apiece in Louisiana during the second half, a group that includes Golden State’s Stephen Curry (visiting May 3-4), the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis (March 23, May 16), as well as the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (March 14, April 26). Also from the Western Conference, Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic (March 26) and Dallas’ Luka Doncic (March 27) come to town on the same weekend.

More than half of the Eastern Conference’s All-Stars have a trip to the Big Easy on their second-half itinerary, including the Brooklyn trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving (April 20). From the same Atlantic Division, the All-Star visitors will be Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (April 9), along with New York’s Julius Randle (April 14). Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic is in town on April Fool's Day.

Incidentally, if you count the final homestand of the first half for New Orleans, the group of upcoming visiting All-Stars expands to 17, because Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert make their only stop here March 1, followed by Chicago’s Zach LaVine facing the Pelicans on March 3.

Other notes related to the team’s second-half schedule:

After being scheduled to make 19 appearances on national TV during the first half, New Orleans has been given nine of those during the second half. Both games against Brooklyn are on national TV, as well as one home game apiece vs. the Los Angeles franchises. Perhaps the most unique selection was a Sunday, April 18 matinee at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which ESPN will broadcast. …

New Orleans will continue to be a very minimal participant in the newly-implemented “series” element of the 2020-21 regular season. During the first half, the Pelicans only had one series, a two-game visit to Utah in Salt Lake City. The second-half slate includes just two series, a visit to Portland (March 16, 18) and May 3-4 home games vs. Golden State. By comparison within the Southwest Division, San Antonio has already played five series; Houston has played four. …

Travel-wise, the second half is much choppier than the first for New Orleans. The Pelicans had a scheduled seven-game road trip during the first half, as well as a scheduled six-game homestand, but the longest second-half homestand is only three games. The Pelicans don’t have a road trip longer than three games until May, when they will traverse the United States on a five-stop excursion that begins in Philadelphia and ends seven days later in San Francisco. The Pelicans will play teams from four of the NBA’s six divisions during that journey, as well as a game in three different time zones.

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