The Start of the Season could be Tough
It’s early September, which means there is next to nothing in the way of basketball news to talk about. So, let’s talk about something that couldn’t possibly be drab and boring: Schedules! Meant to do this a while ago, but better late than never, right?
So, the Hornets are now a team looking for their identity. Few feel like this summer has made the team elite, and it even appears that many think they are merely going to tread water. There is one thing, however, that is true; If the Hornets struggle out of the gate, the Chris Paul trade rumors are going to be harder to kill than Qin Shihuangdi. You know, the First Emperor of China? Survived multiple assassination attempts? Anyone?
Ahem. Anyyyways . . . if that happens, it could make for a long and frustrating season – and many games where I simply mute the TV rather than listen to the other team’s announcers talk about Chris Paul leaving.
It’s clear, however, that the NBA schedule makers don’t care about Hornets’ fans peace of mind, because they have liberally sprinkled the first quarter of the Hornets’ schedule with land mines.
The First Quarter
In the first 20 games on the Hornets schedule, they face 15 teams that made the playoffs last year. Only one of those games (Cleveland) is against a playoff team that will be significantly worse this year than last. It’s also entirely possible that the Hornets could open the season 0-6. Yeah, I said it. 0-6. The first 6 games are against Miami, San Antonio, Denver, Houston(with Yao back) and an improved Milwaukee team twice.
So, while it’s probably stupid to say that the first 6 games of an 82 game season may be the most important six games the guys will play, I feel it may actually be true. 0-6 or 1-5 and the media coverage of the team becomes a circus and a distraction. Personally, I’d like to see 3-3.
The Second Quarter
Things do, of course, become easier during the next 21 games. In fact, the schedule is almost perfectly average when it comes to level of difficulty. 10 games are against playoff teams from last year, and 11 are on the road, with 6 being against playoff contenders. There are also only 5 back to backs, which is average for a 21-game stretch in the NBA. The good teams are mixed up pretty well with the bad, and there is only one ugly stretch at the very end. (@Lakers, @Denver, Orlando, @Houston, @Charlotte)
The Third Quarter
The twenty games of the third quarter take the Hornets through the end of February, and it’s the easiest quarter of the season. 9 of the games are against playoff teams from last year. 10 games are on the road. Again, there are 5 back to backs. The easiest stretch is @Golden State, @Sacramento, Washington and @Phoenix, but that follows an @Atlanta, San Antonio, OKC set that takes place over four days. I’d like to hope that this is where the Hornets start making their move in the standings, generating nice stories about the resurgent Hornets seeking their return to playoff glory behind the stellar play of the MVP-candidate best point guard in the world. Right?
The Fourth Quarter
The fourth quarter opens with the Hornets’ only 5-game road trip. Fortunately, it’s a fairly gentle set of opponents: Toronto, New York, Memphis, Cleveland, and Chicago. The 21 game stretch as a whole has 13 games against playoff teams, but one is Cleveland, and that doesn’t count. There is also exactly 2, count them, 2 back to back sets. That should help.
It’s tough, however, to get past the second half of March, when the Hornets face, in order, Denver, Phoenix, Boston, @Utah, @Phoenix, @LA Lakers, Portland. This is where the Hornets will prove their playoff bona fides and gain momentum – or be exposed as pretenders.
Regardless, it’ll be nice to see the season commence. The Hornets open the season at home, October 27th vs. Milwaukee. Let’s hope they break the threat of 0-6 on the very first night.