- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The first stop on the Washington Wizards’ redemption tour will be in Dallas.

The NBA released its 2009-10 schedule Tuesday, with the Wizards opening the season Oct. 27 at the Mavericks and then visiting the Hawks before making their home debut against the Nets on Oct. 31.

The early portion of the Wizards’ schedule features two games against LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the Cavaliers. Washington travels to Cleveland for its fourth game Nov. 3, then hosts the Cavaliers on Nov. 18.

That should provide a challenge for the Wizards, who are seeking to rebound from an injury-riddled 19-63 season that included Gilbert Arenas missing most of the year and coach Eddie Jordan getting fired after a 1-10 start.

With Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison all healthy, the Wizards are aiming to return to the ranks of the Easter Conference’s elite under new coach Flip Saunders.

“We’ve had a very positive offseason, and we’re eager to begin a new season and a new era of Wizards basketball,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team. “With Flip Saunders as our head coach, the healthy returns of our core players and the addition of several solid new pieces to the lineup, we’re looking forward to having our fans join us for an exciting season ahead.”

In the offseason, the Wizards also traded for guard Randy Foye and swingman Mike Miller and signed backup center Fabricio Oberto, adding to the optimism around the team.

In addition to their dates with the Cavaliers, the Wizards’ early-season highlights include three November matchups with Southeast Division counterpart Miami.

Saunders faces his former team, the Detroit Pistons, on Nov. 14, and a week later the Wizards travel to take on Oberto’s former team, the San Antonio Spurs.

Jordan returns to the District as an opposing coach on Nov. 24 with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Wizards get their first look at No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin on Dec. 14 at the Clippers, and Kobe Bryant and the defending champion Lakers come to town Jan. 26.

Eight of the Wizards’ 82 games will be nationally televised, with seven being aired on ESPN and one on TNT.

A year after playing on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Wizards will take the court on only one holiday this season - Easter, when they host the Nets.

The Wizards’ longest homestand is a six-game stretch in the second half of January that features games against the Kings, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Heat, Clippers and Lakers.