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Sixers to open 2020-21 first-half schedule by hosting the Wizards on Dec. 23

But fans won’t be allowed to attend games at the Wells Fargo Center at the start of the season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Sixers center Joel Embiid (right) and teammate forward Tobias Harris hope to start their season on Dec. 23 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Sixers center Joel Embiid (right) and teammate forward Tobias Harris hope to start their season on Dec. 23 at the Wells Fargo Center.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

This one should be interesting.

The 76ers will begin their 2020-21 NBA season on Dec. 23 against the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. But fans won’t be allowed in the arena at the start of the season due to Philadelphia’s current COVID-19 restrictions.

This matchup should be interesting for a number of reasons. It will mark the start of the Doc Rivers coaching era with the Sixers. Also, the Sixers have only seven players returning from last season’s squad that was swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

This game will also mark the Wizards debut of point guard Russell Westbrook. Washington acquired the 2017 league MVP this week from the Houston Rockets in exchange for John Wall and a 2023 protected first-round pick.

The season opener is part of the 37-game first-half schedule the NBA released Friday. Only first-half games were announced to give the league maximum flexibility to reschedule games in the second half due to COVID-19 conditions. The second-half schedule will be released at around the 30-game mark of the first half, the league said.

Fourteen of the Sixers’ first-half games will be nationally televised on ESPN, TNT, or NBA TV. The first of those, on NBA TV, is set for Dec. 26 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Friday’s release of the schedule came one week after the league revealed its conceptual schedule, with teams playing 72 games in the regular season instead of the normal 82.

The schedule features five “baseball-style” two-game series as a way to cut travel during the pandemic. Teams are to play two consecutive games in the same city against the same opponent on back-to-back nights or over three days.

Among these games, the Sixers will host the Charlotte Hornets (Jan. 2 and 4), the Miami Heat (Jan. 12 and 14), and the Celtics (Jan. 20 and 22) before traveling to the Detroit Pistons (Jan. 23 and Jan. 25) and Tampa, Fla., to face the Toronto Raptors (Feb. 21-23).

Sixers forward Tobias Harris is curious to see how this is going to work during the pandemic. The Sixers played in a bubble atmosphere at a neutral site during the NBA restart in Kissimmee, Fla.

» READ MORE: Sixers star Joel Embiid is out to return as an all-NBA player

Now, they’re back to flying on planes and staying in hotels on the road. Team travel parties are to be limited to 45 people. According to the league’s health and safety protocols, travel parties “remain obligated to minimize risks to manage their health and enhance that of all individuals.”

Harris has been following the pandemic closely, and he realizes the country could be headed for another shutdown.

“I think the biggest thing is, obviously what we’ve been told is, testing daily, and guys holding each other accountable to be safe and limit exposure from outside people,” Harris said.

A player who tests positive and remains asymptomatic must refrain from workouts for 10 days. Afterward, he’ll have to work out individually for two days and must pass a cardiac screening before participating in full-team workouts.

As a result, a player will miss a minimum of 12 days if he tests positive.

The first half concludes March 4. The All-Star break will be March 5-10. There won’t be an All-Star Game this season. The second half of the season is to begin March 11 and conclude May 16, with a play-in tournament for seeds 7 through 10 that is scheduled for May 18-21.

» READ MORE: The Sixers’ Ben Simmons is healthy and ready to go after injury-plagued season

The seventh-place team in each conference, at the conclusion of the regular season, will host the eighth-place team. The ninth-place team will host the 10th-place team. The winner of the 7/8 game will be the seventh seed. The loser will face the winner of the 9/10 game, with the winner earning the eighth seed.

The playoffs are to start May 22, and the NBA Finals are scheduled for July 8-22.

As it did during the NBA restart this summer, the league has suspended random marijuana testing this season.