If the Wizards are going to finally make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, they are going to have to avoid some of the chemistry and injury pitfalls of the past. And they are also going to have to overcome a challenging schedule to start the season.
The NBA released the schedules for all 30 teams for the upcoming 2013-14 campaign on Tuesday night and the Wizards will once again start with a difficult beginning to their journey.
Six of the Wizards’ first eight games will be on the road, where the team has been dreadful in recent seasons. Washington will have an early matchup against four-time most valuable player LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat (Nov. 3) and a three-game swing against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder (Nov. 10) Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks (Nov. 12) and the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs and Tim Duncan, who came within 30 seconds of winning a fifth NBA title last June (Nov. 13).
The Wizards will open the season Oct. 30 on the road against Detroit, a team that finished with the same 29-53 record last season but is far from a pushover. The Pistons swept four games against Washington last season and upgraded this offseason by signing free agent Josh Smith and trading for point guard Brandon Jennings.
The home opener at Verizon Center is two nights later against Philadelphia, with the new-look Brooklyn Nets – who added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry this summer – breaking up the tough stretch of road games when they arrive on Nov. 8.
Two years ago, the Wizards set a new franchise record with eight consecutive losses to open season, a stain that contributed to Flip Saunders getting canned. Then, last season, the Wizards managed to be even worse, setting an even more daunting mark with 12 consecutive losses that essentially eliminated them from the playoffs before Christmas.
Since Wall arrived in 2010, the Wizards have been an atrocious road team, going a combined 19-96 away from Verizon Center the past three seasons. This season, the Wizards don’t have a trip longer than four games and both come during West Coast journeys through Phoenix, Utah, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 24-29) and Sacramento, Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver (March 18-23).
Last season, the Wizards were shut out of any nationally televised games on ESPN and TNT, but this season, Washington will face Cleveland on ESPN on Feb. 7 at Verizon Center in a matchup of former No. 1 picks (Wall and Kyrie Irving) and two of the top three picks from the past NBA draft (Otto Porter).
The Wizards host Dallas on New Year’s Day for the second year in a row. They will also have one of their two five-game homestands that month, beginning with visits from the Heat (Jan. 15) and Chicago (Jan. 17) in former MVP Derrick Rose’s first game in Washington in nearly two years.
Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks make their lone visit on Nov. 23 and the Los Angeles Lakers arrive three days later, with Kobe Bryant hoping to be fully recovered from his ruptured Achilles’ tendon by then.
Durant will play his only game in Washington on Feb. 1. Two days later, Wizards newly-signed backup guard Eric Maynor will get to face his second former team in as many games when rookie of the year Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers come to town.
The Wizards will host Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, new coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 14. Dwight Howard, the big catch in free agency, will arrive with fellow all-star James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Jan. 11.
Former DeMatha standout Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick last June, will return home as a member of the Orlando Magic on Dec. 2. Former Maryland center Alex Len, who went fifth to Phoenix, will play his first game at Verizon Center on March 26.
The Wizards will also have 19 sets of back-to-back games, including three from Jan. 10-18, and another grueling stretch of six games in nine days from Nov. 19-27.