Analyzing the New Orleans Hornets 2008-09 Schedule

A prime basketball maxim is that for a player to experience succes, they "Must play with Confidence."  Last year, the Hornets schedule was custom built to breed that very attribute in the Hornets.  For the first two months of the season, 31 games in all, Chris Paul's team only faced six games against teams that contended in the playoffs.(made it past the first round)  By January, the boys in teal were ripping off 9 wins in a row, had seized the top spot in the Western Conference, and soon had no less than five All-Star participants(CP3, West, Peja, Byron Scott, and trainer Terry Koffler) When February and March hit, dealing the Hornets 12 games against contenders, including a stretch of 15 games in only 30 nights, New Orleans handled it with style, going 19-8.

So what can the Hornets expect this year?  Are there any stretches to be wary of?  How do the initial confidence-building weeks look?  My analysis of the schedule, by month:

October & November
(15 games, 6 vs last year's playoff teams)
The NBA couldn't have been any kinder to New Orleans to start the season.  The opening six games are against Golden State, Phoenix, Cleveland, Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami.  Four gimme's and probably two games the Hornets will split, which will allow them to enter their first hard stretch of the season against the visiting Lakers with a likely record of 5-1.  After facing the Lakers, the Hornets then get an unpleasant back to back taking on the Oden-Fernandez-Roy trio from Portland and then flying to Houston to take on Luis Scola and a few other guys who play for the Rockets.  After CP3 finishes abusing Rafer for two hours straight, the rest of the month is easy:  A home and home against Oklahoma City, and three other playoff longshots before closing out the month with a Thanksgiving tussle against Denver, and another battle with Portland.  I'm leaning towards 11-4 to finish November.

(13 games, 8 vs last year's playoff teams)
December turns ugly.  Though the Hornets only play 5 away games, none of the playoff teams they face are lightweights. The Hornets take on the Spurs, Rockets, Lakers, Suns, Celtics, Magic and Raptors.  Happily there are only two back-to-back sets, one involving the Grizzlies.  Christmas isn't very merry, since the Hornets visit the Orlando Magic Christmas Day at noon, and then fly home to take on Houston the following day.  I mean, its bad enough to have no time to play with their presents – but no time to return them if they suck?  Inhuman, I tell you.  At least the Hornets will finally get a chance to avenge two of their most depressing losses last year on December 30th when the Wizards come to New Orleans for the drubbing they so richly deserve. I predict them going 9-4.

(16 games, 9 vs last year's playoff teams)
January would easily be the toughest month of the season this year – if April wasn't looming.  Unlike last year, where this was the month that served notice to the NBA world that the Hornets were for real, the Hornets will go through a series of tough tests this month.  9 games on the road, including a vicious four game road trip against Portland, Denver, the Lakers and Jazz to start off the new year.  Another three game road swing in mid-month against Dallas, Cleveland and Detriot.  Mixed in are four back to back sets, and there are only two stretches during the month where the Hornets manage to get two days of rest.  I'm thinking they'll go 10-6 for the month.

(13 games, 5 vs last year's playoff teams)
The pre-All Star part of February isn't so bad.  It's six games in 11 nights, but all of the teams are manageable other than the last game before the All-Star weekend against the Celtics.  Not sure how focused the players will be for that one.  After the All-star break is a different matter, as the Hornets clash with Orlando, the Lakers, Utah and Detroit.  At least they get a nice easy first game out of the break against the Thunder to get back in the flow. Predicted record of 10-3.

(16 games, 6 vs last year's playoff teams)
Unlike the previous three seasons, where March has been the Bane of the Hornets, this March should launch a beautiful run by the Hornets to the top. Only two back to backs.  The tough games against Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are well spaced, with lots of really easy fodder like Milwaukee, Memphis, Atlanta, New Jersey, Minneosta, Golden State, Oklahoma City and the Knicks.  In fact, by the time March rolls around, no less than 10 of the teams the Hornets will play this month are likely to have been eliminated and quit on the season.  Cakewalk.  Time to hold serve and get the Arena roaring.  14-2.

(9 games, 6 vs last year's playoff teams)
This month is crushing.  The NBA clearly wanted to pack in big games between the prime teams in the league leading up to the playoffs.  The Hornets finish the season with 6 games on the road, three back to backs, face their nemesis Utah on the 5th and then end with five brutal games: Phoenix, @Dallas, Dallas, @Houston, @San Antonio.  Talk about a regular season ending.  I feel us going 6-3.

Oddly enough – or perhaps not so oddly – those monthly totals end with us going 60-22.  Right about on target according to my other predictions.  I'm an amazingly consistent predictor!

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