The Big Picture: The season begins. Finally. The Sonics are 0-2, the state of Texas is 5-0, and 14 NBA games have been played, but the Clippers have yet to take the court. In fact, by the time the Clippers tip off at 7:30 on the left coast, about 9 more games will be in the books and San Antonio will be closing in on their 3rd victory.
The Clippers catch a break in their opener, facing a Warriors team that struggled without Stephen Jackson in their opener, a 21 point loss to the Jazz in Oakland. Of course, the Warriors will be very motivated to get their own first win. It's only one game, but it's important because it's the opener, it's against a Division rival, and it's a chance to get a win before the Warriors have figured out who they are this year. The fact that it's against last year's 8th seed, and the Clippers would love to trade places with them this year, is just one more thing.
The Opposition: Don Nelson has a long history of NBA crazy (remember Manute Bol shooting threes?), but he may be outdoing himself this time. He took a team that was 16-4 with a starting lineup of Biedrins, Harrington, Jackson, Richardson and Davis, a team that made history by dominating a number 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, and he made big changes. Richardson is in Charlotte, traded for 20 year old Brandan Wright who won't even be in uniform tonight. Stephen Jackson is suspended - OK, that's not Nelson's doing. But this one is - Al Harrington is coming off the bench. A team that played small ball just got a LOT smaller - Mickael Pietrus, a shooting guard to most NBA coaches, started at power forward against Utah. Gee, I wonder why they lost that game? Unfortunately for the Clippers, they don't have Elton Brand to pound Pietrus tonight. Fortunately for the Clippers, they should be able to use their own smaller lineups (Al Thornton at the 4?) with relative impunity against this team.
- The bad extension versus the no extension. The Clippers extended Chris Kaman to the tune of 5/$52M last year, and he proceeded to take a big step backward. Andris Biedrins wanted a 5 year extension this summer for well over $50M, citing Kaman's contract as a precedent. The Warriors were offering well under $50M, citing Kaman's contract as a precedent. If Kaman is ever going to be the player the Clippers thought they were paying, he has to start by outplaying the likes of up-and-comers like Biedrins.
- Maggette shooting two. Corey Maggette has made a career at the free throw line, and seems to hurt the Warriors there in particular. Corey should get about 15 free throw attempts tonight.
- The old veteran. Sam Cassell announced his presence with the Clippers two seasons ago by scoring 35 in the first game of the season. After an injury plagued season, look for Sam to try to prove the doubters wrong with a big game tonight. It won't be easy against Baron Davis.
- The new lineup. MDsr is going to start Maggette and Ross at the wings, and bring Mobley off the bench. It's just crazy enough to work! It's hard to say why this is such a good idea this season that it's the opening day lineup, while Mobley started 74 of the 79 games he played last season with essentially the same conundrum facing the coach. Ross will get assigned to Ellis at the beginning (and help on Davis as well) while Mobley and Thornton will be the designated scorers for the second unit.
- The Warriors guards. Baron Davis is an amazing player, a former all pro and a major talent. And against the Clippers, he's the weak link. Monta Ellis has killed the Clippers the last several times they've played, including a week ago in the pre-season finale. Cassell's night could be cut short if Davis and Ellis get off to a hot start and MDsr has to go to Brevin Knight early.
- The triple digit score. The Warriors play at a crazy pace. The Clippers say they are going to play up tempo this season. If you like high-scoring, fast paced basketball, this is your game.