We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2021-22 NBA season.
It hardly seems possible. This has been a whirlwind of an offseason.
Since June 16, the New Orleans Pelicans have fired their coach old coach Stan Van Gundy, hired a new coach in Willie Green, renamed their G-League affiliate, held the draft, made multiple trades, signed free agents, went undefeated in Summer League, and have been the subject of everything from infighting within #Pelicans Twitter to renewed, yet baseless, rumors of relocation.
Looking back at it, the games can’t get here soon enough.
There are a couple of noticeable differences from the schedules of the past two seasons:
- After two seasons impacted by the pandemic, the NBA returns to an 82-game schedule.
- The Pelicans won’t be on television nearly as much as they have been. They get only 15 appearances on national television this season, down from more than 30 in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.
An annual tradition among Pelicans fans is discussing just how difficult the schedule makers have made it for New Orleans to start the season on a high note.
The first 10 games of the schedule for this year should change that feeling.
After the home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 20, the Pelicans go on the road for a three-game road trip against Lonzo Ball and the Chicago Bulls, and back-to-back games against the Minnesota Timberwoles.
They return to the Smoothie King Center for three games featuring the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, before finishing that first 10 at the Phoenix Suns and Kings.
Of those first 10 opponents, only four of those games come against teams that made the playoffs last season (76ers, Hawks, Knicks, Suns), with three of those at home.
The Pelicans need to get off to a good start. Over the past seven seasons, New Orleans has been at .500 or better after 10 games twice. In both of those seasons, the Pels made the playoffs. In the other five seasons, the team has a record of 12-38 (.240).
|Season||10-game W/L||Win %||Season W/L||Win %|
The four playoff teams represent the biggest challenge. They all finished in the top-12 in defensive rating last season, with Philadelphia, New York, and Phoenix in the top six.
|New York Knicks||0-2||.000|
That doesn’t mean the Pelicans can take any of these teams lightly. Last season, New Orleans went 5-12 against this group, only taking the season series with Sacramento.
The Kings and the Pelicans finished with the same record last season, for what it’s worth.
The pressure is always on in New Orleans. There’s no getting around the fact that the Pelicans have to make the playoffs this season. Not just to combat the persistent rumors that franchise cornerstone Zion Williamson is already looking to flee the flock, but to potentially keep a fan base from going into full on revolt mode, with David Griffin playing the part of the king trying to hold on to his throne.
Ten games should tell us what type of team the Pelicans will be this season. It’s been a pretty good indicator in the past.
Here’s to the future.