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Wizards’ Disney schedule includes six playoff teams, Zion Williamson

The Washington Wizards’ steep climb to the NBA playoffs came into sharper focus Friday night when the league released its schedule for the season restart on July 30 in Florida.

The Wizards (24-40) will face five teams with winning records and get their first look at Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans when the league resumes with an eight-game regular season. Most of Washington’s games will be in the afternoon.

After kicking their slate off on July 31 against the Phoenix Suns, they’ll face the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder before wrapping up in mid-August with their two toughest opponents in the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics.

The Wizards have a combined 6-5 record against their final eight foes, with wins coming against Phoenix, Brooklyn (twice), Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Boston.

The eight-game regular season will serve as both a warm-up to allow teams to reacclimate to play and as a seeding round before the NBA proceeds to its usual 16-team postseason format. The ninth-seeded Wizards’ task is clear: the team must get within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in tournament to qualify for the playoffs. In that tournament, Washington would have to beat the eighth seed twice to advance. The eighth seed would only need to beat the Wizards once.

The Wizards are currently 5 ½ games behind eighth-seeded Orlando Magic (30-35).

For now, Washington is spending the next month preparing for an abbreviated season after nearly four months off. The team will continue individual player workouts at their facility in Southeast Washington through July 6 before heading to Orlando on July 7, where the Wizards will complete a mandatory quarantine period before starting a three-week training camp.

Washington will also focus on integrating a new player in that month-long preparation period. Point guard Jerian Grant is set to sign a short-term contract with the team in place of forward Davis Bertans, the team’s best three-point shooter, who elected to sit out the rest of the season. Bertans will be a highly prized free agent at the end of the season for whom any injury in Orlando could be greatly consequential. The NBA is also set to kick off at a time when Florida’s coronavirus cases are spiking dramatically.

Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday the NBA and its players union are in agreement the league can proceed in a safe environment anyway.

Across the NBA, the regular season will feature between four and seven games per night with at least three televised nationally on TNT, ESPN or NBA TV. The league will restart with a TNT doubleheader pitting the Pelicans and their rookie star Williamson against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers against the Clippers.

The first round of playoffs will begin Aug. 17 at the earliest.

Here’s the Wizards’ complete schedule. All times Eastern:

Opponent Date Time TV
Phoenix Suns (26-39) July 31 4 p.m. NBC Sports Washington
At Brooklyn Nets (30-34) Aug 2 2 p.m. NBCSW
Indiana Pacers (39-26) Aug 3 4 p.m. NBCSW
Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) Aug 5 4 p.m. NBCSW and NBA TV
At New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) Aug 7 8 p.m. NBCSW
At Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24) Aug 9 12:30 p.m. NBCSW
Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) Aug 11 9 p.m. NBCSW
At Boston Celtics (43-21) Aug 13 TBD TBD

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