What a difference playoff run makes. The Wizards, who didn’t have any nationally televised games for the last three seasons, will make 10 appearances for 2014-15 after the schedule was revealed Wednesday.
They’re scheduled to appear nine times on ESPN and once on TNT, the most since 2008-09 when the Wizards, who won just 19 games that disastrous season, were scheduled to appear 11 times. The last time the Wizards made a regular season appearance on TNT was Thanksgiving against the Atlanta Hawks in 2010, a spokesman from the network confirmed.
The Wizards open the season for the third year in a row on the road, with their first two games coming at the Miami Heat (Oct. 29) and Orlando Magic (Oct. 30). The home opener at Verizon Center is Nov. 1 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, who have No. 2 overall draft pick Jabari Parker.
In the bigger picture, the Wizards were rewarded for their 44 wins, No. 5 seeding and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years. (Note: Only TNT games are exclusive while ESPN’s are non-exclusive in regards to regional telecasts. Comcast SportsNet will release its preseason and regular season telecasts for Wizards games in the coming weeks):
- Nov. 5 vs. Indiana Pacers (ESPN) and April 14 at Pacers (TNT), 8 p.m. ET: Both games air in the same time slot but on different dates for different networks. The Pacers, who eliminated the Wizards in six games of the East semifinals, won’t have Lance Stephenson (left as free agent) or Paul George (broken leg). Roy Hibbert and David West will have to carry them but repeating as conference’s No. 1 seed won’t happen.
- Nov. 21 and Feb. 20 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 8 (ESPN): Both are on the same channel and at the same time on these dates. The November meeting will mark their first game against LeBron James, who returned to his roots after a stint with the Miami Heat, in a Cavs uniform since John Wall’s rookie season in 2010. Last season, the Wizards were scheduled for just one national TV game that was vs. the Cavs who were no longer viable as a playoff team. It was yanked from the schedule.
- Dec. 25 at New York Knicks, noon (ESPN): This will mark the first time the Wizards have played on Christmas Day, an NBA staple, in five years. The bigger the stage, especially when it’s Madison Square Garden, and Bradley Beal tends to show out.
- Jan 9 vs. Chicago Bulls, 8 (ESPN): This represents their second meeting with, if he stays healthy, Derrick Rose. The Wizards beat them in five games in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Remember 18 of 19 analysts and reporters from ESPN alone picked the Bulls to win the series, mostly in dominating fashion.
- Jan. 21 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 (ESPN): They’ll play at Kevin Durant’s team earlier in the month, and this will be their second and final meeting. The significance? Durant will be playing in his hometown and the hype (overhype?) about him becoming a free agent two years from now will be out of control. Two years ago, when Beal was a rookie, he buried the game-winning shot to beat the Thunder at Verizon Center. The Wizards dismantled them at home last season, too.
- Jan. 29 at Phoenix Suns, 10:30 (ESPN): With Goran Dragic and John Wall on the floor, it’s an entertaining track meet. Both teams won on each other’s home floor last season. The Suns weren’t a playoff team because the West is so deep but won four more games than Washington.
- March 6 vs. Miami Heat, 8 (ESPN): It’ll be curious to see just how many supposed “fans” of the Heat show up for this one. In past seasons, Verizon Center was littered with LeBron James/Heat jerseys. Chris Bosh is now the leader with Dwyane Wade hobbling along on bad knees.
- March 18 at Utah Jazz, 10:30 (ESPN): This one is the most surprising. The Jazz do have some dynamic young players in Trey Burke, Dante Exum and Gordon Hayward but this is a team that won just 22 games last season. Trevor Booker, who signed with Utah as a free agent, spent his first four NBA seasons in Washington.
The Wizards also have five games that are scheduled to be aired by NBA TV: Dec. 5 vs. Denver Nuggets, 7; Jan. 5 at New Orleans Pelicans, 8; Jan. 24 at Portland Trail Blazers, 10; Jan. 25 at Nuggets, 8; and March 14 vs. Sacramento Kings, 7.