Leave it to the NBA to lure me right back in, even if it was just for an evening, when I was about to fully take off my basketball pants and put on my football pants (so to speak, anyway).
Sure, I saw the hilarious typo of LeBron James signing a three-year deal worth $100 total (accidentally tweeted by Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who was likely trying to beat everyone to the story), which coincidentally happens to be the same amount of total money I wish the Wizards had given to Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith.
I also saw the quintuple-header lineup of Christmas Day NBA games that I won’t be able to watch, because my wife will want me to “spend time with the family” — which sounds like a truly terrible idea — and, once again, ruin my dream of sitting on the couch and watching 12 hours of basketball in one day (by the way, Neel: did you see Chicago plays San Antonio in one of those five games? Keep an extra glass — or bottle? — of scotch handy that day… you’ll need it).
But with my mind fully geared up towards the Redskins vs. Falcons preseason opener — in all it’s meaningless-after-the-first-quarter glory — and my forthcoming fantasy football draft (sure, it’s still four weeks away, but I don’t care), it didn’t even occur to me that the NBA would release their 2016-2017 schedule on the first evening of actual — albeit meaningless — NFL football.
So before I fully and finally immerse myself in the goodness of football, here are the 10 games on the Washington Wizards 2016-2017 schedule that interest me the most:
10. Thursday, October 27th, at Atlanta — The official first game of the regular season for the Wizards. Even if it’s going to take place at the basketball mausoleum that is Phillips Arena, you gotta get excited for it. Personally, I can’t wait to see that visceral moment of realization when the Hawks realize what a horrendous idea it was to sign the perpetually under-performing Dwight Howard. By midway through the third quarter of their first game together, I think Howard’s teammates won’t be able to withhold their true disdain for him.
9. Friday, January 6th, vs. Minnesota — between Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Wiggins, first round pick Kris Dunn, and new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves have officially become the “NBA League Pass Champion” of the 2016-2017 season. I do think they’ll be fascinating to watch from afar, and even more entertaining to witness up close.
8. Thursday, November 17th, vs. New York — The first time that Wizards fans will get an up close at the “we just sacrificed any salary cap flexibility we had for the next five years so we can compete for one of the bottom four playoff spots in the East for the next season or two” New York Knicks. Just as a reminder: the Knicks are paying $74 million to Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee. Do I think the Knicks will finish this season with a better record than the Wizards? Yes. Do I think the Knicks will be competing for a top three lottery spot in about three years, when Noah is totally broken down, ‘Melo begins to eat his feelings of resignation towards never winning anything in his career, and Rose has been signed to a massive contract extension, only to get injured again? Yes.
7. Thursday, February 2nd, vs. the Los Angeles Lakers — The Wizards lost to the god-awful Lakers last year, when Kobe Bryant dropped a (then) season-high 31 points on us (with a very Kobe-esque stat line of 24 shots versus only three assists in 36 minutes). In a city with a decorated history of sports atrocities, that game, in my opinion, should be mentioned among the worst. And of all the insufferable opposing fan bases that infest the Verizon Center, the Purple-and-Gold poseur brigade might be the worst. Even if those know-nothing fans couldn’t tell you the difference between Brandon Ingram and (the late) Brandon Lee, I still enjoy handing the Lakers a loss and watching them scurry out of the arena.
6. Monday, November 28th, vs. Sacramento — now that the ill-fated “KD2DC” movement is finally dead, we should collectively re-allocate our resources towards a “Boogie to DC” movement. Sure, the Wizards have virtually no realistic trade assets to try and pry DeMarcus Cousins away from Sacramento’s clingy hands; considering there’s almost no way Cousins signs an extension with the Kings, he could be a highly coveted trade asset next year in 2017-2018 (the season after which his contract expires). And if he does hit free agency, the Wizards blew any hopes of chasing him in free agency by binge-spending on the guys signed this offseason, frittering away any salary cap room in the future. Ladies and Gentleman: Ernie Grunfeld at work, yet again.
5. Saturday, November 12th, at Chicago: I’m so excited to (again) make fun of my buddy Neel — my NBA-topic podcast compatriot who happens to be a Bulls fan — for the certified train-wreck this franchise has turned itself into, when the Wizards play the Bulls for the first time this year. Now, in fairness, I have to admit that i’m extremely “impressed” Bulls General Manager Gar Foreman’s ingenuity. I love when people think counter to conventional wisdom, so when Foreman first hires a head coach because he wants someone to install a scheme based on movement and shooting, and then surrounds that coach with free agent acquisitions who have problems moving and shooting, you have to recognize the true level of “genius” at work here. To borrow a line from a truly classic film: “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton; let’s see how it works out for [them].”
4. Wednesday, November 2nd, vs. Toronto — The home opener at the phone booth. If John Wall wants to personally put a stop to the new narrative of “the two best point guards in the Eastern Conference are Kyrie Irving and (no longer fat) Kyle Lowry,” this would be the perfect evening to do so.
3. Wednesday, November 9th, vs. Boston: The Wizards play against “the ghost of Al Horford present” — a giant man adorned in green. Or, if you want to compare Horford to something a little more contemporary: he’s the newly single girl that we spent a fair amount of time and money buying drinks for, made out with her for a bit while still at the bar, and even hailed an Uber to drive the two of us back to our house, only to watch her go home with one of the bartenders whom she was also flirting with all evening.
2. Friday, November 11th, vs. Cleveland — The defending champs come to town (meaning the bandwagon LeBron James ball-washers all come out of the woodwork). It’s the Wizards first match up against Cleveland this season, meaning it’s the first time that John Wall will square off against Kyrie Irving (after the latter transformed the narrative around him from “Stephon Marbury 2.0” to “Are we sure he and Stephen Curry didn’t secretly switch bodies, like one of those cheesy movie plots?”)
1. Tuesday, February 28th, vs. Golden State: KD comes to DC… just not nearly in the same capacity as we were hoping for over the last two-or-so-years. In a city known for fans re-selling their tickets to a sporting event, can you imagine the profit margins Wizards “fans” could make off this one game? Imagine a concert tour featuring Kanye West, Drake, Bruno Mars, Luke Bryan, and Justin Timberlake; the Warriors are basically the basketball equivalent of that. If you have a good enough seat at the Verizon Center, I bet you could make enough of a profit to where you could pay off your entire season ticket cost. That’s how incredible a draw the Warriors could be this season.