The new red, white and blue Washington Wizards opened the regular season Monday night against the New Jersey Nets — and the uniforms, logos and shiny court aren't all that fans should be interested in seeing at Verizon Center.
John Wall had his first test against an elite point guard in All-Star Deron Williams, but the home opener was not a sellout, which is understandable considering the past three seasons of lottery failures for the Wizards and a mediocre opponent that was missing Brook Lopez, one of its two best players.
The NBA lockout delayed the start of the season and chopped off 16 games from the normal 82, but even a condensed schedule features a few highlights. Here are five can't-miss games for the truncated campaign. And no, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers didn't make the list. The other team from Los Angeles? Well, it is a new day on the NBA landscape:
Jan. 1 vs. Boston
The young Wizards will start 2012 with a back-to-back set against the aging Celtics and immediately test the theory about what will be most advantageous during a shortened season: young legs or veteran savvy.
Jan. 11 at Chicago
Jan. 18 vs. Oklahoma City
Feb. 4 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Lob City make their lone visit to Verizon Center for what should an entertaining, alley-oop-filled game. Caron Butler should also play his first game in Washington since being traded in February 2010.
Feb. 10 vs. Miami
No matter what offseason moves were made, the Heat — with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — remain the marquee opponent on the calendar. The defending Eastern Conference champion makes the first of two visits.