NBA Schedule Release: 10 Games for Hornets Fans to Look Forward to
It didn't come with quite the fanfare and anticipation of the NFL's symmetrical event, but the NBA's schedule release Thursday night was a success.
And it is one that most importantly produced an exciting schedule for Hornets fans to look forward to in the 2012-13 season. It is a tough schedule for a young team.
The league did the Hornets no favors in trying to help them get off to a clean start, but then again, had the league given them Charlotte off the bat, it's still an NBA team capable of winning.
Instead, the league gave the Hornets the San Antonio Spurs at home on Halloween night. The good news with that, of course, is that it's Halloween in New Orleans. As long as fans show up, New Orleans Arena will spazz out in a good way for Monty Williams' squad.
Of the 82 games the team must face, here are the 10 to most look forward to at this point in July. Hence, they are subject to change based on circumstances from now 'til pretty much the end of the season.
10. December 11 at Home vs. Washington Wizards
Earlier this offseason, the New Orleans Hornets shipped Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor off to the Washington Wizards for the amnesty-able contract of Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick, which they used to select Darius Miller.
The move allowed the Hornets to move forward and get creative with their roster in the 2012-13 season and beyond. Fans were sad to see two productive players and likeable guys leave New Orleans, but will be happy with the overall product in short timing.
They may not leave New Orleans Arena too happy on December 11 though, as the Wizards figure to be a team ready to compete in the upcoming season.
Combined with Ariza and Okafor, Nene, Bradley Beal and John Wall make for an exciting five man rotation that can compete with many if not all of the mid-level teams in the league.
It should be a fun reunion for Ariza and Okafor and Hornets fans. We'll find out then which party enjoys themselves more by which teams scores more points.
9. December 5 at Home vs. LA Lakers
Every year the New Orleans Hornets struggle with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe, Pau and Andrew Bynum are too much for the undermanned Hornets.
Perhaps that will remain true in 2012-13 as well. But with a new cast of characters, and a healthy Eric Gordon (Hornets fans hope), who happens to be the new "Kobe stopper," the Hornets get their first chance to start a new record against the Lakers.
They have an opportunity to set things straight and start moving in the right direction against one of the league's perennial contenders. They're going to have to do it eventually. Why not start right away?
8. February 6 at Home vs. Phoenix
Isn't it ironic that Eric Gordon's very first game as a Hornet was at the Phoenix Suns, and that he went on to make the game-winning shot in the desert?
The answer should be a definite yes, considering Gordon then went on to sign a max contract offer sheet with the same Phoenix Suns this offseason and did everything but put a death threat on Dell Demps to dissuade the Hornets from re-signing him.
Gordon will get to play in his beloved Phoenix earlier in the campaign, but February is the first opportunity for Hornets fans to come up with some odd type of reaction to Gordon as it relates directly to Phoenix.
It could be a very odd night at "The Hive."
7. February 22 at Home vs. Dallas
The Dallas Mavericks have always been a real pain in the Hornets' (donkey). It should come as no surprise since Dallas has perhaps the most underrated player of this generation (Dirk Nowitzki, in case that wasn't clear).
This season they will come into town with an upgraded lineup including Hornet-for-a-year Chris Kaman and missed-out-on-via-weird-amnesty-bid-draft-guy Elton Brand.
The Mavs have also managed to get younger and more talented in the backcourt with the addition of another former Hornet Darren Collison.
It'll be a reunion for all the guys the Hornets only kind of ever had on their team. And perhaps the guys the Hornets actually have now will have had a legitimate chance to gel together by February 22.
If so, this could be a super competitive, super fun basketball game to watch.
6. March 6 at Home vs. Orlando
Of course, there is a more than excellent chance Dwight Howard will no longer be with the Orlando Magic on March 6. If that comes to pass, it is likely the move will have been made shortly proceeding this game at the NBA trade deadline.
The reverberations will be loud and shaky either way.
Another fun storyline in play will be Gustavo Ayon returning to play in New Orleans, while his trade counterpart Ryan Anderson will get a chance to tear apart what is likely to be a damaged goods Orlando team in shambles.
It should also be noted the Hornets have mostly dominated the Magic at home since moving to New Orleans, making this a game fans should very much look forward to at "The Hive."
5. January 19 at Home vs. Golden State
Fans in New Orleans mostly appreciated Jarrett Jack and were slightly bothered by his departure to the west coast and the Golden State Warriors. Surely his first trip back to New Orleans should be one in which he receives a nice bit of applause.
Meanwhile, the remainder of Marc Jackson's squad in Oakland is looking sweet. If Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut can stay healthy, the Warriors figure to be a playoff team in 2013.
The Hornets ought to enjoy spoiling their former pals' return and possibly a key win for his team in the standings.
4. January 9 at Home vs. Houston Rockets
Just having Jeremy Lin in the building is a special treat. Few players have caught the imagination of an entire nation the way "Linsanity" did this past winter as he led the New York Knicks to heights the franchise hadn't reached in over a decade.
While it's unclear how much of that magic will travel with him from NYC to Houston, one thing is for sure: Lin is the type of guy people want to see play the game.
Of course, it is at least theoretically possible either Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum could be playing in the bright red sported by Houston's NBA team.
That would only add to the circus that promises to be Houston Rockets basketball this season. This is a must-see for all Hornets fans, if for no other reason than the certain electricity in the building.
3. November 16 at Home vs. Oklahoma City
The New Orleans Hornets found themselves rather unlucky with the way the early season begins for them. Sure, they get to play five of their first seven games at home. But five of the seven are against 2012 playoff teams, and the Houston Rockets are a team who promises to be much better than their near-miss squad of a season ago.
Having the defending conference champs coming into your home in the first seven games isn't the ideal way to start a season. It is quite likely the Thunder will come out firing on all cylinders in 2012, hoping to avenge their ugly finals loss.
Of course, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were the true 'big three' a season ago, and Serge Ibaka raised his game to a point where it is not incomprehensible for the team to sport a 'big four' in 2012-13.
That all figures to create problem for New Orleans. At least it should be a fun game to watch purely for basketball's sake.
2. March 27 at Home vs. Los Angeles Clippers
If you're anything like me, you found it odd that the NBA elected to wait on a Chris Paul-reunion until literally less than a month remained in the 2012-13 season. The teams do play twice in Los Angeles early in the season, so that kind of makes up for it.
Of course, this game doesn't carry quite the weight it did a season ago, as the teams were still fresh off the blockbuster deal that sent franchise point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers in exchange for young budding superstar Eric Gordon, the expiring contract of Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and what turned into the 10th pick in this draft and who we now know is Austin Rivers.
The team has three pieces remaining in place from the deal. And Chris Paul is happy and still connected to New Orleans in other ways.
All in all, both sides seem okay with the deal. Even Jason Smith's aggressive takedown of Blake Griffin in last year's only Crescent City matchup of the two teams couldn't turn this game into anything more than an overly hyped game. Yet it could be a game that matters for both teams in late March.
1b. March 29 at Home vs. Miami Heat
The defending NBA champion Miami Heat (wow, never thought I'd say that with this version of the Miami Heat) roll into The Big Easy just two days after a likely emotional matchup for the Hornets against former star Chris Paul.
Hornets fans may not have a lot of gas left in the tank to bring the energy level back that quickly. But they're going to have to do just that.
Whatever energy they can muster up will be necessary against the demons of the NBA. Who knows what to expect from LeBron James and his posse. Odds are good though that they'll just be starting to hit on all cylinders.
If that's true, the Hornets and their crowd will have to step their game up big time.
1a. October 31 at Home vs. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have earned their weight in gold under Gregg Popovich with physicality. The last two years the team has transitioned into a more up-tempo philosophy and roster build.
That said, the team remains capable of beating a team down low. That very well may be their game plan in the initial game of each team's season. The thought process being, of course, that the Hornets are a bit weak down low and will not have any opportunity to make reasonable adjustments at this point.
Of course, the X's and O's talk can be saved for another day. It's hogwash, really. The point is that Hornets fans cannot wait to see their brand new team—one sporting a unibrow and loaded with unreal young talent.
"The Hive" ought to be jumping and fixed up with the raddest, most out there costumes one has ever seen at an NBA game. If you can make Opening Night, by all means do it!