Full NBA schedules have yet to be released, but we already have two major indicators of how the Wizards have raised their profile. Washington got a coveted Christmas Day slot, playing at the Boston Celtics, and it will begin its season with a nationally televised home game against the 76ers.
For many casual basketball fans who pay more attention to football in the fall, Christmas marks the unofficial start of the NBA season, and the league is very aware of the importance of scheduling compelling games for that day. In the case of the Wizards, they get a rematch (although the teams will likely face each other before Christmas) against the squad that bounced them from the playoffs in an Eastern Conference semifinals series that went the full seven games.
Washington and Boston came into that series with preexisting bad blood, as reflected in the Wizards’ all-black “funeral” attire as they entered the home arena formerly known as Verizon Center before a January game. During the playoff series, the Celtics tried the same sartorial move, with less immediate success, and before that, Kelly Oubre Jr. got suspended for shoving then-Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk.
On Christmas, the Wizards and Celtics are set to play at 5:30 p.m., in a game televised by ABC that will land in the middle of a five-game slate. Immediately before that game, the Cavaliers and Warriors will square off in an NBA Finals rematch (3 p.m., ABC), and following Wiz-Celts comes a playoff rematch between the Rockets and Thunder (8 p.m., ABC), featuring last season’s MVP and runner-up in Russell Westbrook and James Harden, respectively, plus Paul George and Chris Paul.
The first game will feature the 76ers at the Knicks (noon, ESPN), in contest that fans can only hope includes Philadelphia’s intriguing trio of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The final Christmas Day game matches the Jimmy Butler-led Timberwolves against Lonzo Ball and the Lakers (10:30 p.m., TNT).
The 2017 #NBAXmas Day Schedule!
10:30et: TWolves/Lakers pic.twitter.com/gELqXUNMY0
— NBA (@NBA) August 10, 2017
The Wizards will begin their season Oct. 18, in a game televised by ESPN as part of a doubleheader, with a Timberwolves-Spurs matchup following it. For Washington, it will be the first time it opens at home since 2011, when it played Dec. 26, following the NBA lockout. The last time the Wizards opened at home in a full season came in 2008, and the Oct. 18 date is the earliest for their season opener since 1980.
The Celtics will play in the NBA’s opening game, a matchup with the Cavaliers on Oct. 17, one immediately followed by the Rockets and Warriors.
The last time the Wizards played on Christmas Day was 2014, when they defeated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.