Some version of "Circle the date on the calendar" will be uttered numerous times throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. Most likely by an announcer starting the early hype job for an upcoming matchup against an All-Star type player like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, or a title contender like the Clippers, Spurs or Hawks. Recently I said something similar to Wizards guard John Wall, but in question form. Sliding a copy of Washington's entire 2015-16 schedule in front of him, I asked the two-time All-Star to circle the games he's most looking forward to this season.
Standing on the set of various CSN shows, the point guard immediately grabbed a pen and used his renowned court vision to seek out those foes he's most excited to face on the court this season.
"I just like Cleveland," Wall stated. "Where is Cleveland at?"
The Wizards and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers meet four times this season. Wall quickly found and circled the two home matchups on Jan. 6 and Feb. 28, but didn't mark the two road games. Perhaps Wall disagrees with Drew Carey and doesn't believe Cleveland rocks. He does know the Eastern Conference chase runs through Northeast Ohio. "They're the team everybody wants to see. It's a big matchup against LeBron [James] and them," Wall said.
More circles followed. The regular season finale at Atlanta - "big game" pits Washington against a Hawks team that ended the Wizards' playoff dreams. Reigning NBA Champion Golden State's lone Verizon Center appearance received a mark "because of Steph [Curry]." That works because a battle between those All-Star point guards epitomizes must-see TV.
Wall then selected the lone road game on his personal hype list.
"I like [playing] the Clippers," Wall said of the one Los Angeles-based NBA team expected to actually compete for a title this season. (Sorry, Kobe Bryant).
The reasons for picking the Clippers extend beyond the challenge of facing fellow yet another All-Star point guard in Chris Paul. "I like playing at Staples Center a lot. I love playing in LA*. ...I love going to go up against the best point guards, but I love playing in LA."
[* This is reason number 382 why the Wizards were wise not letting Wall sniff free agency]
By the way, there is apparently a difference between Clippers and Lakers games at the Staples Center beyond Jack Nicholson: The lighting.
"That's why I love playing in the Staples Center when the Lakers play there," Wall said. "When the Clippers play, too bright."
Five of Washington's first seven games are against playoff teams from last season. This does not include Wednesday's season opener at Orlando. This certainly includes Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting Verizon Center less than a week after Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs do the same.
"It makes it fun," Wall said of the early tests. "You always want to get of to a great start, but when you get those tough, tough teams, you see how you are early on. If you take a loss, you take it early. You don't have to worry about it when you're trying to make that playoff push."
Nobody will be thinking about a potential playoff on Nov. 10. In case you haven't heard, there is some interest locally with Kevin Durant. Something about the Prince George's County product becoming a free agent next summer and everyone in the DMV hoping he brings his talents to Chinatown.
Anyway, the game with the Thunder will be Washington's seventh of the season. The pre-game hype will be considerable, but Durant's one visit per year will also be out of the way. [Washington completes the season series Feb. 1 in OKC.] From Wall's perspective, that's a good thing.
"Yes, because that's going to be a hassle," Wall said, alluding to what will certain become a media frenzy for several days. "On a Tuesday night, that place is going to be rocking with him coming into town."
No need to remind all you Wizards fans about this matchup. Something tells me that like Wall, you've already got Durant's visit circled on your calendar.
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