Season tickets were sold at a rapid rate. Team merchandise flew off the shelves in unprecedented numbers. Fan interest on social media spiked.
Pick virtually any aspect of New Orleans Pelicans’ offseason, and there is probably a metric to demonstrate how successful the 2019 offseason was for Crescent City basketball. On Monday afternoon, the highly-anticipated official release of the 2019-20 NBA schedule brought another – the Pelicans have shattered their franchise record for national TV appearances, accumulating a total of 20 on ABC, ESPN and TNT. New Orleans’ previous high in that category was 13 on those networks.
While Pelicans.com recommends watching all 82 games of a team many around the NBA will be following closely all season, here are 30 selected games for fans to circle on their calendars, including all 20 of the aforementioned national TV appearances (NBA TV has also added 10 games):
Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Toronto (TNT)
After the Raptors hold their first-ever championship-ring ceremony, Pelicans fans will get their first chance to watch a slew of new additions in an official game, including first-round picks Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Waker (the latter is a Toronto native). That rookie trio will be joined in a New Orleans uniform for the first time by NBA veteran pickups JJ Redick, Derrick Favors, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
Friday, Oct. 25 vs. Dallas (ESPN)
New Orleans’ home opener against the Mavericks will feature the ’18-19 Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic, as well as this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Williamson. It will be the Duke product’s first official game in the Smoothie King Center.
Monday, Oct. 28 vs. Golden State (NBA TV)
The Warriors may have lost some household names this summer in transactions or due to injury (Klay Thompson won’t appear in this game), but they still boast two-time MVP Stephen Curry and one-time Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green. Golden State also added to its firepower by acquiring D’Angelo Russell, who will pair with Curry in an explosive backcourt and match up against Jrue Holiday and Ball.
Thursday, Oct. 31 vs. Denver (TNT)
It should be a fun atmosphere in the Smoothie King Center, with New Orleans fans having a chance to get in some trick-or-treating prior to the late 8:30 p.m. tip-off on Halloween. A No. 2 seed in the rugged West last season, the Nuggets possess one of the league’s most talented young cores, headlined by Nikola Jokic. The center placed fourth in MVP voting last season.
Monday, Nov. 11 vs. Houston (NBA TV)
After landing Russell Westbrook in a July trade, Houston now has two of the NBA’s past three MVP winners. Westbrook earned the award in ’16-17, followed by James Harden capturing it the following season. The Rockets already were one of the Western Conference’s best clubs, having gone 20-5 after the All-Star break last season.
Thursday, Nov. 21 at Phoenix (TNT)
A week prior to Thanksgiving, the last two No. 1 overall draft picks will be on the floor in the desert, including Williamson and Suns second-year center Deandre Ayton. New Orleans’ stingy defensive backcourt of Holiday and Ball will have a difficult assignment against prolific shooting guard Devin Booker.
Saturday, Nov. 23 at Utah (NBA TV)
One of the most beloved Jazz players of this decade, expect a rousing ovation for Favors in his return to Salt Lake City. The center, who spent the past eight-plus seasons of his pro career in Utah, won’t make a second trip to the Beehive State until mid-March.
Wednesday, Nov. 27 vs. LA Lakers (ESPN)
After a series of roster changes, four-time MVP LeBron James is now joined in Los Angeles by a group of players extremely familiar to Big Easy basketball fans. That group includes former Pelicans players Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo – all NOLA teammates during the ’17-18 campaign – along with Quinn Cook. Meanwhile, former Lakers players Ingram, Ball and Hart will square off against their ex-team for the first time.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 vs. Dallas (TNT)
Is a budding Southwest Division rivalry beginning to take shape between the Pelicans and Mavericks? Both of Dallas’ early-season trips to the Crescent City will be broadcast nationally. Due to a scheduling oddity, New Orleans will wrap up its four-game season series with Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs before Christmas.
Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Milwaukee (ESPN)
New Orleans makes its only visit to Wisconsin of the campaign to face reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the team with the East’s best record in ’18-19. In the Pelicans’ first-ever trip to Fiserv Forum last season, they nearly rallied from a significant second-half deficit to overtake the Bucks on their home floor.
Friday, Dec. 13 at Philadelphia
Redick returns to Wells Fargo Center, where he was an integral component of the 76ers’ rise to playoff participant each of the past two postseasons, including first-round victories over Miami and Brooklyn, respectively. This mid-December road trip features Pelicans games against the two East teams most commonly predicted to be at the top of the conference standings.
Tuesday, Dec. 17 vs. Brooklyn
NBA fans will likely need to wait until ’20-21 to see Kevin Durant suit up for the Nets, but this is Brooklyn and Kyrie Irving’s lone appearance in the Big Easy of ’19-20. The Nets were a somewhat surprising playoff qualifier last season, one of the NBA’s most improved squads.
Friday, Dec. 20 at Golden State (ESPN)
The Pelicans get their first up-close look at the Chase Center, the brand-new downtown San Francisco home arena for the Warriors. The new location will make for a much quicker commute for visiting NBA teams, who commonly stayed in San Francisco hotels even when the Warriors were playing home games in Oakland.
Wednesday, Dec. 25 at Denver (ESPN)
The league’s traditional five-game slate of Christmas tilts will conclude at 9:30 p.m. Central in the Pepsi Center, where New Orleans will play just the third Dec. 25 contest in franchise history (and first outside of Florida). The Pelicans are seeking their first Christmas victory, having dropped games in Orlando (’08) and Miami (’15).
Friday, Jan. 3 at LA Lakers (ESPN)
New Orleans will make four separate trips to Staples Center this season, including this contest, which will be the first game for the Pelicans of the 2020 calendar.
Monday, Jan. 6 vs. Utah
The Jazz may not have made splashy transactions this summer, but the additions of point guard Mike Conley (trade with Memphis) and forward Bojan Bogdanovic (free agency from Indiana) give Utah one of the league’s more formidable starting lineups. In late July, NBA.com ranked the Jazz third in the West, behind only the Clippers and Nuggets.
Friday, Jan. 10 at New York (ESPN)
At first glance, Pelicans-Knicks probably doesn’t seem like much of a candidate to appear on the national TV schedule, but “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” chose to broadcast the first appearance for Williamson at Madison Square Garden, the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Saturday, Jan. 18 vs. LA Clippers (ABC)
For the first time since April 2009, New Orleans will play a regular season game on ABC. The Clippers joined the Pelicans near the top of the list among teams that experienced the best offseasons, signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, while acquiring Paul George via trade. Leonard, George and Holiday are all among the league’s best two-way players.
Monday, Jan. 20 at Memphis (TNT)
Not long ago, New Orleans always hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but in recent years, it’s become common for the Pelicans to spend the holiday at FedEx Forum. This will be the second straight occurrence, including the third time in five years that New Orleans has been in Tennessee for MLK festivities. The first two picks in the ’19 draft (Williamson and Ja Morant) will meet for the first time.
Sunday, Jan. 26 vs. Boston (ESPN)
The revamped Celtics and key addition Kemba Walker make their only visit to the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans usually don’t play many home games on Sundays during football season, but this is the weekend between the NFL conference championships and the Super Bowl.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at Houston (ABC)
On Super Bowl Sunday, Pelicans-Rockets will tip off at 1 p.m. Central in Toyota Center, roughly 4.5 hours before kickoff in Miami. Prior to the ’19-20 campaign, New Orleans had not had a regular season ABC telecast in a decade, but this will be the second on the network in a 15-day span.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 vs. Milwaukee (TNT)
It’s the only chance of ’19-20 for New Orleans fans to see MVP Antetokounmpo in person. In a scheduling oddity, among the eight East playoff teams from ’19, seven play in Smoothie King Center prior to the All-Star break, with the lone exception being Philadelphia.
Friday, Feb. 21 at Portland (ESPN)
Pelicans-Trail Blazers had the makings of a potential rivalry after New Orleans swept Portland 4-0 in the first round of the ’18 playoffs; the Blazers answered with a 3-0 regular season sweep last season. This is the fourth and final time New Orleans will meet Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in ’19-20.
Tuesday, Feb. 25 at LA Lakers (TNT)
New Orleans wraps up a challenging post-All-Star break Mardi Gras road trip at Staples Center, after making previous stops in Portland and Golden State.
Sunday, March 1 vs. LA Lakers (ESPN)
How much are the national networks looking forward to the season series between the Pelicans and Lakers? All four matchups will be broadcast on national TV, with this being the third carried by ESPN.
Tuesday, March 3 vs. Minnesota
The NBA uses a rotating schedule among interconference opponents that aren’t in the same division. As a result, the Timberwolves and Karl-Anthony Towns only play once in the Smoothie King Center this season (Sacramento is the other West team that makes one trip to NOLA in ’19-20. On the road, New Orleans only goes to Denver and Phoenix once apiece).
Wednesday, March 11 at Sacramento (ESPN)
The vast majority of the Pelicans’ national TV games have an obvious storyline, featuring a player facing his former team, or New Orleans meeting a geographic or divisional rival. Pelicans-Kings has neither, but it figures to be an intriguing matchup between two West teams loaded with rising young talent.
Monday, March 16 vs. Atlanta
These two cities have a notable rivalry in football, but in basketball they don’t even play in the same conference. Like the Pelicans, the Hawks have methodically grown a promising group of youngsters, headed by ROY runner-up Trae Young, as well as John Collins, Kevin Huerter and ’19 lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
Monday, April 13 vs. Washington
The Pelicans nearly always play their home finale against a West opponent, making the Wizards an unusual guest at this late juncture of the schedule. Bradley Beal headlines the Washington backcourt, with John Wall expected to be sidelined for most or all of ’19-20.
Wednesday, April 15 at San Antonio
Could this be a vital game for both teams? NBA.com’s recent power rankings list San Antonio as the eighth-best team in the West, with Sacramento and New Orleans placed ninth and 10th, respectively. ESPN.com ranked the Spurs eighth and the Pelicans ninth in the conference.