The NBA has officially released the 2022-23 regular season schedule and the New Orleans Pelicans know their path to make the playoffs in consecutive years for just the third time in franchise history.
The trio of Chris Paul, David West and Byron Scott last led the organization to such an accomplishment over 13 years ago. That’s probably ancient history for some, but either way, early indications are that these Pelicans are positioned well to finally break that spell.
A roster that plowed through the Play-In tournament to grab the eighth seed last season is locked and loaded with also a healthy Zion Williamson in tow. The Pelicans are considered to possess one of their highest ceiling in years, but let’s be honest, they’re going to need to circumvent the obstacles on the schedule for the entire season.
New Orleans fans should need little reminding of the 3-16 stumble out of the gates or of the team playing over .500 ball following the first quarter of the season. Avoiding a long stretch of inconsistency is key even if multiple injuries strike.
With that in mind, a lot of eyes should be on the first several weeks.
The Pelicans have annually struggled to get off to solid starts, for whatever the reason. Once again, it’ll likely be a feat for the team to find themselves at 5-5 or better after the first ten games.
If Kevin Durant suits up for Brooklyn in the season opener, the Nets will be championship-caliber strong. Even if he doesn’t, you know that Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons will look to make a statement after hearing all the ridicule over the last year.
Following contests against the Jazz and Hornets, the Pelicans face a formidable slate of six games. There’s Luke Doncic and the Mavericks. The Suns in Phoenix. A matchup against the expected Kawhi Leonard-led Clippers. A motivated Lakers squad likely looking for revenge after how the Pelicans disposed of them late last season. The current champions in the Warriors. And a likely much improved Atlanta Hawks team.
To make matters more daunting, four of these six games will take place away from the Smoothie King Center. Thankfully, this stretch includes only one back-to-back set.
In all, the Pelicans will appear in 12 back-to-backs, three less than last season’s total. That’s good news because the 2021-22 group went 3-12 on the second night of back-to-backs.
Fortunately, after opening this schedule with eight of 11 games on the road, the Pelicans will wrap up this campaign with 10 of 17 at home, including four of the last five. If New Orleans is battling for key positioning down the stretch, this detail bodes well.
The Pelicans will be featured on either ESPN or TNT a total of 11 times, with another seven games getting aired on NBA TV. 18 national appearances after a 36-46 season? Not bad at all.
We’ll delve deeper into the schedule on our next The Bird Calls podcast, but for now, be sure to find a minute and appreciate this work of art posted by the Pelicans social team.
Ha! Well played, Griff. Well played.