- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2007

The Washington Wizards will begin next season with two road games — including one at retooled Boston — before their Verizon Center opener against Orlando on Nov. 3.

The Wizards, who play their first game Oct. 31 at Indiana, also will meet Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Denver in early November, and top draft Greg Oden and Portland will make their trip to the District on Nov. 17 as the Wizards try improve on last year’s 41-41 season and first-round ouster in the playoffs.

“After our third consecutive appearance in the NBA playoffs last season, we achieved an organization wide goal of becoming perennial playoff contenders,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “And now as the 2007-08 schedule is unveiled, we want to take the next step towards becoming an elite team in the Eastern Conference and in the NBA.”

Regardless of the schedule’s order, Washington’s most significant issue will be keeping stars Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in the lineup. All three missed portions of last season, and the team struggled in their absence.

It was especially apparent in the season’s final month, when both Arenas (knee) and Butler (broken hand) suffered season-ending injuries. Once a contender in the East, the Wizards slid to the No. 7 seed and were swept in the first round by Cleveland. The LeBron James-led Cavaliers will visit Verizon on Dec. 5 in the first meeting since last spring’s series.

Another notable set of games is Washington’s four meetings with Boston. The Celtics, of late a downtrodden franchise in the scuffling Eastern Conference, revamped their roster this summer with the addition of guard Ray Allen and forward Kevin Garnett. The Wizards play at Boston on Nov. 2 and Jan. 14, with home dates with the Celtics on Jan. 12 and April 9.

The Wizards‘ four meetings with Southeast Division champion Miami are Dec. 29 and April 4 at home and Dec. 13 and March 21 on the road.

Other significant visitors to Washington include Steve Nash and Phoenix on Dec. 7; Kevin Durant and Seattle on Jan. 6; Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 3; and defending NBA champion San Antonio on Feb. 6.