The Washington Wizards’ steep climb to the NBA playoffs came into sharper focus Friday night when the league released its schedule for the season restart beginning July 30 in Florida.
The Wizards (24-40) will face five teams with winning records and get their first look at Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans when the league resumes with an eight-game regular season. Most of Washington’s games will be in the afternoon.
After tipping off their slate July 31 against the Phoenix Suns, the Wizards will face the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder before wrapping up in mid-August with their two toughest opponents, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
The Wizards have a combined 6-5 record against their final eight foes, with wins against Phoenix, Brooklyn (twice), Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Boston.
The eight-game regular season will serve as both a warmup to allow teams to reacclimate to play and as a seeding round before the NBA proceeds to its usual 16-team postseason format. The ninth-seeded Wizards’ task is clear: The team must get within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in tournament to qualify for the playoffs. In that tournament, Washington would have to beat the eighth seed twice to advance. The eighth seed would only need to beat the Wizards once.
The Wizards are currently 5½ games behind the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic (30-35).
For now, Washington is spending the next month preparing for an abbreviated season after nearly four months off. The team will continue individual player workouts at its facility in Southeast Washington through July 6 before heading to Orlando on July 7, where the Wizards will complete a mandatory quarantine period before starting a three-week training camp.
Washington will also focus on integrating a new player in that month-long preparation period. Point guard Jerian Grant is set to sign a short-term contract with the team in place of forward Davis Bertans, the team’s best three-point shooter, who elected to sit out the rest of the season. Bertans will be a highly prized free agent at the end of the season for whom any injury at Disney World could be greatly consequential.
The NBA is also set to tip off at a time when Florida’s novel coronavirus cases are spiking dramatically. Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday the NBA and its players’ union are in agreement that the league can proceed in a safe environment anyway.
The league will restart July 30 with a TNT doubleheader pitting the Pelicans and their rookie star Williamson against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers facing the Clippers. After that, the regular season will feature between four and seven games per day with at least three televised on TNT, ESPN or NBA TV. The first round of playoffs will begin Aug. 17 at the earliest.
Here is the Wizards’ complete schedule, with all times Eastern:
|Phoenix Suns (26-39)||July 31||4 p.m.||NBC Sports Washington|
|At Brooklyn Nets (30-34)||Aug 2||2 p.m.||NBCSW|
|Indiana Pacers (39-26)||Aug 3||4 p.m.||NBCSW|
|Philadelphia 76ers (39-26)||Aug 5||4 p.m.||NBCSW and NBA TV|
|At New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)||Aug 7||8 p.m.||NBCSW|
|At Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24)||Aug 9||12:30 p.m.||NBCSW|
|Milwaukee Bucks (53-12)||Aug 11||9 p.m.||NBCSW|
|At Boston Celtics (43-21)||Aug 13||TBD||TBD|
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