November 15. Write it down. Never mind, don't write it down, I already wrote it down.
Four Pacific Division teams made the playoffs last season (Suns, Clippers, Lakers, Kings). With the injury to Mike Bibby in a pre-season game Sunday (broken thumb), three of those four teams will begin the season with a superstar injured or returning from surgery.
Kobe has yet to play a pre-season game, and may not play until opening day. Of course, Kobe will probably still be Kobe, but a host of other Lakers are hurt as well. The Lakers have an ASTOUNDINGLY soft schedule through December 10, with 15 out of 20 games at home, a 16th in Staples against the Clippers, and only one trip out of the time zone (all the way to Utah). They'll have to pay for this the rest of the season, and if the injuries cause them to start slow, it could be the end of their season. If they're 10-10 on December 10, it's a disaster.
Amare is still a long way from 100%, playing limited minutes off the bench in pre-season. The Suns will have to re-integrate him into their offense at any rate, so it could be a slow start for them as well.
Without Bibby, the Kings have no proven options at the point (Ronnie Price? Jason Hart?), and lose the best scorer off a team that doesn't have a lot of scoring. It could be pretty ugly in the Capital until Bibby gets back in the lineup in mid-November.
Which leaves the Clippers with an early season opportunity. Although Kaman and Cassell have been sitting out pre-season games, they are expected to be available and 100% for opening day. The only injury is to Zeljko Rebraca, which hurts front court depth some, but we are talking about the 9th man. With 6 of their first 8 games in Staples, and two games against the Suns in the first week, the Clippers have a chance to start fast while their rivals are trying to get healthy.
So let's check the standings on November 15.