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blacksaint 08-03-2007 11:59 PM

Hornets release schedule, open with Sacramento
By Benjamin Hochman
Staff writer

The biggest Halloween party in town will be at the New Orleans Arena.

The Hornets will open their 2007-08 regular season at home against the Sacramento Kings, marking their momentous return to post-Katrina New Orleans.

This coming season will be the team's first full season in the Crescent City since 2004-05. The Hornets moved to Oklahoma City for the two seasons following Hurricane Katrina, playing nine scattered games in New Orleans while the team and city prepared for a permanent reunion.

Opening night on Oct. 31 will be the first of 41 home games, featuring a youthful Hornets team that was in the playoff hunt last season up to the final week.

"From the players and coaches to the front office staff, we are ecstatic to be back home in New Orleans," said Hornets owner George Shinn. "We are eager for the 2007-08 season to get underway and for our fans to enjoy an entire 41-game schedule of the fun, excitement and entertainment they've come to expect from our game-night experience."

Twenty of the Hornets' 41 home games will be held on the weekend, including 12 on Friday nights. The Hornets will be nationally televised on ESPN twice - at home against the Miami Heat on Jan. 11 and at the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 11. The Hornets will also appear on NBATV six times.

After the Halloween opener, the Hornets will host the Blazers on Friday Nov. 2, a game featuring center Greg Oden, Portland's No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

After their first two games, the team will play seven of their next nine games on the road, followed by seven of the next 10 at the New Orleans Arena.

The Hornets' longest road trip during the season will be six games from March 25-April 2, all against Eastern Conference opponents; the longest homestand will be five games from Jan. 16-25.

The Hornets play every Western Conference team four times, with the exception of Denver, Golden State, Sacramento and Seattle. Those teams the Hornets will play three times.

The defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs will visit New Orleans on Nov. 9 and March 12, and LeBron James and the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers play in New Orleans on Dec. 29. The Los Angeles Lakers and All-Star MVP Kobe Bryant play twice - Jan. 9 and March 14 - and the new-look Boston Celtics, with All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, come to town on March 22.

The Hornets will play one day game, a 2:30 tipoff on Monday Jan. 21, to commemorate Martin Luther King Day. All home games will tip off at 7 p.m. with the exception of two 6 p.m. starts on Sunday Dec. 9 against Indiana and Sunday, Apr. 6 against Golden State.

The Hornets enter their fourth season under Coach Byron Scott. They finished 39-43 last season, despite major injuries to numerous key players. This season, the Hornets are banking on the health of Peja Stojakovic, the pricey free agent signing from 2006 who played only 13 games before back injuries sidelined him last season. Stojakovic, who averaged 17.8 points per game, will shift from shooting guard to small forward, to accommodate this summer's free agent signing, Morris Peterson from Toronto.

Power forward David West, the only Hornet to play on the team before Katrina, led the team in scoring last year with 18.3 points per game. Center Tyson Chandler had a breakthrough season in his first with the Hornets, averaging 9.5 points and 12.4 rebounds, second in the NBA. And, of course, the Hornets' captain and leader is Chris Paul. He averaged 17.3 points and 8.9 assists last season, and he is one of the better point guards in the game.

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