Going 30-52 during the season sure does make a difference in how the NBA tries to showcase a franchise. Last year, coming off a solid 45-37 campaign and entertaining first round series with the Golden State Warriors the NBA rewarded Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans with 13 national television appearances including showcases on opening night, Christmas Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Pelicans lost all three of those games on their way to racking up 52 total losses.
This year New Orleans is no longer the rising star in the Western Conference. Say farewell to premier slots on opening night and Christmas Day. The Pelicans are slated to appear on national TV (non-NBATV division) just five times all season. Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis will be a mere afterthought in the NBA’s conscience unless this team makes serious noise in the playoff hunt.
That’s not all! In those five games the Pelicans face a rest disadvantage three times. The other two contests? Against the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Going 0-5 on national TV is certainly in the cards. Let’s run down the schedule.
Golden State Warriors - Friday, October 28th at 8:30 PM on ESPN
The second game of the year for both teams, they should be fresh. A weird local tip-off at 8:30 PM in the Smoothie King Center to accommodate the television schedule. (This is one of the reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers on are national TV so often, filling the late West Coast start times are a pain.) New Orleans gets an early look at the rebuilt Warriors with Kevin Durant. Maybe fitting Durant into their rotation makes a victory possi... Yeah, probably not.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Wednesday, November 23rd at 8:30 PM on ESPN
Another late start at home, this time with the Pelicans on the second night of a back-to-back against a rested Timberwolves team. On the plus side, the previous game is in Atlanta for New Orleans so they shouldn’t have a long flight home. This is a huge match-up between teams expecting to challenge
to be a sacrificial lamb for the last playoff spots in the West. Karl-Anthony Towns versus Anthony Davis right before Thanksgiving has serious star potential.
San Antonio Spurs - Friday, March 3rd at 8:30 PM on ESPN
Sensing a theme with these uncharacteristically late tip-offs at home? Both teams here are rested. San Antonio will be a well-oiled machine at this point, their customary rodeo road trip ends in February. After a pit stop at home to play the Indiana Pacers the Spurs come to New Orleans before settling into a home-heavy schedule in March. This is the first potential game that could be flexed out of national coverage for the Pelicans if necessary. A possible replacement? The Boston Celtics at the Los Angeles Lakers.
at Utah Jazz - Monday, March 27th at 9:30 PM on TNT
The Pelicans play just one game on TNT all season and this one is nasty. New Orleans is on the second night of one of the worst back-to-backs available in the league, the previous night they play on the road against the Denver Nuggets. The Utah Jazz are one of the young darlings of the league this summer and their solid off-season improved their available depth to near comical levels. On the plus side the Jazz are unlikely to try to push the pace. However, they might field one of the best defenses in the league this year and will be rested facing whoever is still healthy for New Orleans.
at Portland Trail Blazers - Wednesday, April 12th at 9:30 on ESPN
The Pelicans are again on a SEGABABA against a rested opponent, this time to end the season. The Rose Garden presents a significant home court advantage; the last time New Orleans won in Portland was November 26th, 2010. In the last six years the Pelicans have lost ten consecutive times on the road to the Trail Blazers. Portland may have playoff seeding to play for; hopefully New Orleans does as well. If not, San Antonio at Utah (playoff seeding) or the Lakers at the Warriors (74 wins?) could usurp this national television appearance.