- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Here’s an oddity for the Washington Wizards this coming season: They will play their first two games at home.

That may not seem extravagant or head-turning. It is for this group. The Wizards have not opened a full regular season at home since 2008. They have not played their first two games at home since the 1978-79 season, when they beat the New Orleans Jazz and New Jersey Nets to start a 54-win season 2-0.

Washington starts everything Oct. 18 this season against the Philadelphia 76ers. A visit from the Detroit Pistons follows and precedes a four-game West Coast trip that includes a visit to Golden State.

Overall, the Wizards are on national television 18 times. They will be on ESPN opening night and on ABC on Christmas Day, when they play at Boston. They played just five nationally-televised games during the regular season in 2016-17.

Washington, like the rest of the league, will benefit from significant schedule changes. By moving up the start of the regular season by almost two weeks, the NBA has been able to spread out games and beat back the doldrums of the schedule.

For instance, the league has eliminated playing four games in five nights. The number of back-to-back games played this season will be an all-time low for the third consecutive season. The total went from 16.3 to 14.4. Since 2014-15, four-in-fives have dropped from 70 to zero and back-to-backs have been cut by 26 percent (or 4.9 per team). The Wizards will play 15 back-to-back sets this season.

The league is also taking a page from the NFL: It is now labeling the schedule by week. It will run from Week 1 to Week 26.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to Washington on Nov. 3 and Dec. 17. The Celtics arrive Feb. 8 and April 10, the latter of which is Washington’s final home game of the regular season. The Los Angeles Lakers come to Capital One Arena on Nov. 9, NBA Champion Golden State Warriors on Feb. 28, and Houston Rockets Dec. 29. The home finale will take place on April 10 when the Wizards host the Celtics.

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