- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

The NBA on Wednesday unveiled the schedule for the 2008-09 regular season, and Washington Wizards fans can circle Oct. 29 as the official return of guard Gilbert Arenas and a reunion of “The Big Three.”

Arenas, limited to 13 games last season because of knee surgery, again denied fans a chance to see what a healthy unit led by him and fellow All-Stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler can do. The Wizards will host the New Jersey Nets in the season opener and play six of the next 13 games on the road.

Arenas returned to action in the final two weeks of the regular season and played in four playoff games before having to go on the shelf once again. Without a healthy Arenas, the Wizards lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs for a third straight year.

Arenas signed a six-year, $111 million deal last month and continues to rehab his knee with the goal of returning at 100 percent this season.

By re-signing Arenas and Jamison (four years, $50 million), Wizards management kept intact a unit they consider a contender in the Eastern Conference when healthy.

The Wizards will test their mettle against the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics on Dec. 11 in an ESPN televised game.

It’s one of 11 nationally televised games for the Wizards in the upcoming season.

One of the most notable is a Christmas Day matchup at the Cavaliers on TNT.

Washington faces the Cavaliers four times during the regular season. The second meeting is Jan. 4 in the District.

On Dec. 3, the Wizards play the Portland Trail Blazers and perhaps a healthy 2007 No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden. Two days later, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town. Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and the Miami Heat visit Nov. 18.

Jan. 26 features a home game against Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and the Phoenix Suns. Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and the Denver Nuggets visit on Feb. 6, and Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs — including former Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. — come to the District on Feb. 21.

The Wizards close the regular season April 15 at Boston.