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John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule

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John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule

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?"

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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.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards get pleasant surprise from Martell Webster

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

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John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?