While the Washington Wizards are set for a rare home opener, as well as a handful of big matchups inside Capital One Arena, the team will have few chances to appeal to mass audiences during the 2018-19 season.
The NBA schedule has yet to be announced, but the Wizards are likely to start the season Oct. 18 against the Miami Heat in the District, according to a league source familiar with the draft of the league calendar. While there’s a slight possibility the location of the opener can still be adjusted, if it remains unchanged then Washington will open at home for only the second time in eight years — a small consolation prize given by the league considering how it has largely forsaken the Wizards as a premier team.
For the upcoming season, the Wizards will play in nine nationally televised games, half the amount from last season, and even the team’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game will not be showcased on the major networks. The Wizards are slated to play their first game on national television (ESPN) Friday, Nov. 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Jan. 21, the Wizards will host the Detroit Pistons for the MLK holiday.
Although the Wizards are expected to have several more games on NBA TV — including a Saturday night home matchup on Oct. 20 against the new-look Toronto Raptors and Kawhi Leonard — they will have few chances to be featured during the league’s prime-time scheduling on ESPN, ABC and TNT. On Wednesday, the NBA announced that the complete national televised game schedule will be released Friday.
Just a year ago, the Wizards were considered a must-watch team and landed 18 games on national television, including a Christmas Day matchup played on ABC against the Boston Celtics. But after starting the season with three straight wins, Washington began flashing the symptoms of its season-long affliction: complacency against weaker opponents. Early losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns served as a prelude to the 130-122 thumping by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers during an ESPN showcase on Nov. 3.
By Nov. 10, all-star point guard John Wall experienced his first debilitating injury — another trend that defined the unsteady season. Wall missed 41 games, the team went on to finish 43-39, dropping to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and losing to Toronto in the first round of the playoffs.
The underwhelming 2017-18 season has certainly dulled Washington’s spotlight for the upcoming year. Even with a team featuring an all-star backcourt in Wall and Bradley Beal and new center Dwight Howard, who not so long ago was viewed as a face of the league, the Wizards have receded to the background.