The Washington Wizards released their 2018-19 schedule on Friday. The calendar features an overseas trip, an early test against the defending champions and limited national exposure. Here are some highlights of the upcoming 82-game calendar.
Make or break start?
Throughout the season the prevailing question will be just how well will Dwight Howard mesh with the core? October gives the Wizards little time to ease into that answer. After the season tips off inside the comforts of Capital One Arena with games against the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors on Oct. 18 and Oct. 20, the Wizards must find their chemistry during the longest road trip of the season.
The opening month will conclude with Washington on a five-game Western Conference journey. On Oct. 22, Washington visits the Portland Trail Blazers, where Bradley Beal scored a career-high 51 points the last time he played there. Then on Oct. 24, the Wizards will face the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Games at the Sacramento Kings (Oct. 26), Los Angeles Clippers (Oct. 28) and Memphis Grizzlies (Oct. 30) follow, and this sequence bares similarities to last year when the Wizards started the season with two home games before playing their next four out west. A year ago, Washington survived with a 4-2 record, even without starter Markieff Morris, who was recovering from an offseason surgery.
. . . And another thing about that trip
After the summer swap of Austin Rivers and Marcin Gortat, the first meeting between the Wizards and Clippers was a game sure to draw interest. So, that Oct. 28 matchup inside Staples Center marks the first time since the deal Rivers will play against his former team, and his father Doc Rivers, who is the Clippers’ head coach. Also, Gortat, who spent the last five years in Washington, will not only face off against his former Wizards teammates but also Howard. The two centers played together from 2007-2010 with the Orlando Magic.
LeBron and the Lakers coming for a rare home game in December
While the Wizards discover the West in October, they’ll spend the final month of 2018 getting familiar with Eastern Conference foes. In a curious twist to the calendar, Washington will play nine of its 16 December games on the road — with eight coming against teams in the East. The outlier: Dec. 19 at the Houston Rockets.
However, the highlight of the month comes on Sunday, Dec. 16, when the Wizards host the Los Angeles Lakers for LeBron James’s one and only visit to Capital One Arena for the season.
Home sweet home — in London
The NBA schedule always follows a rhythm, so after an exhausting road stretch, the Wizards will be rewarded with their longest home stand, theoretically covering 15 days in January. However this “home stand” includes the international trip to London
On Jan. 17, Washington will play as the home team against the New York Knicks in the NBA London Game 2019. Besides that matchup, to be played inside the O2 Arena, 3 p.m. local time, the Wizards will have eight games in the District.
National TV games down, but back-to-backs remain the same
One glaring positive about the nine-day Western Conference road trip in October: Washington won’t have to play on consecutive nights. The first back-to-back comes on the road against the Magic (Nov. 9) then the Heat (Nov. 10).
Overall, the Wizards will play 15 back-to-back games, the same as last year. However, the Wizards will play in only eight nationally televised games (five on ESPN and three on TNT), down from 18 a year ago. In comparison, the Lakers will lead the NBA with national television appearances (43).
Games against the rising Eastern Conference teams
Washington will play some of the best, young teams in the conference only three times this season. The first matchup against the Boston Celtics comes Dec. 12, at home. Also, the Wizards’ regular-season finale happens inside the Capital One Arena against the Celtics.
The Philadelphia 76ers will make their only visit to Washington on Jan. 9, the second night of a home-and-home affair between the two teams.
Finally, the Wizards will meet Milwaukee Bucks once on the road (Feb. 6) and twice at home (Jan. 11 and Feb. 2).
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