- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The Washington Wizards will begin this season exactly the way they finished the last one: facing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Wizards, trying to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season, open the season on the road against James and the Cavaliers on Nov. 1. They return to Verizon Center for their home opener against the Boston Celtics on Nov. 4, according to schedules released by the NBA yesterday.

The Wizards also have more appeal on the national level this season, thanks to back-to-back playoff runs and two players, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, who could be on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008.

The Wizards will appear on national television 19 times next season, including eight games on ESPN, nine on NBA TV and one game on both ABC and TNT.

“After another thrilling season last year and back-to-back trips to the NBA playoffs, the 2006-07 schedule will once again bring great NBA action to Washington,” Washington Sports & Entertainment president Susan O’Malley said. “With the return of All-NBA performer Gilbert Arenas, as well as Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and a burgeoning team under the direction of Eddie Jordan, there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement for the dawn of the new season.”

The Wizards quickly will test themselves against some of the league’s best teams. Two weeks into the season, they begin a six-game stretch that includes five games against playoff teams. That span includes home-and-away games against the Detroit Pistons, a home game against the Cavaliers and a road game against the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks.

Last season’s schedule was backloaded with road games at the end of the regular season, but the 2006-07 schedule is not. The Wizards also faced two long road trips against Western Conference teams last season, but the longest road trip this season is a seven-day swing in March that includes games at Portland, Seattle, Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah. Of those teams, all but the Clippers failed to qualify for the postseason.

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