- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The national television spotlight the Washington Wizards basked in the last two seasons was clicked off yesterday when it was announced they will not make an appearance this season.

The NBA released league schedules yesterday for the season, and the Wizards are not featured in nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or TNT. A Wizards game could be added to the schedule at some point if play warrants it.

“Last season we knew we were in a very unique situation with Michael Jordan playing his final season,” said Matt Williams, Wizards senior vice president of communications. “But if we play well early you could possibly see that schedule change.”

Jordan retired at the end of the regular season and planned to return to the Wizards’ front office as president of basketball operations. However, he was not offered his job back in May and since has been replaced by Ernie Grunfeld.

During the two seasons Jordan played for the team, the Wizards appeared on national television 31 times — 20 last season and 11 in 2001-02.

In addition, the Wizards sold out all 82 of their home games the last two seasons and were the top road draw in the league.

But now that Jordan is gone, the Wizards’ appeal is expected to plummet, although they do have a new coach in Eddie Jordan and a big free agent addition in point guard Gilbert Arenas.

The Wizards, who finished 37-45 and failed to reach the playoffs in each of Jordan’s two seasons with the club, will begin their season Oct.29 in Chicago, where Jordan won six NBA titles.

The Wizards then play at Toronto on Oct.31 before coming to MCI Center for the home opener against defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey on Nov.1, followed by games against Dallas and Toronto.

After that the Wizards hit the road again, and they will get their first look at LeBron James when they play Cleveland Nov.8.

It won’t take long for the Wizards to find out how good or bad they will be because the early schedule is ruthless.

Thirteen of the first 20 games are on the road, including an early West Coast trip that includes four games in six nights before Thanksgiving. The Wizards will make a stop at MCI Center, where they will face the Detroit Pistons on Nov.29, before taking to the road for four games at Dallas, Memphis, Milwaukee and Indiana.

And if the Wizards are fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the season, the schedule once again will present them with a challenge: They play nine of their last 13 away from MCI Center.

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