After three road games and a neutral court in Mexico this pre-season, the Clippers are back in LA where they'll stay for awhile. They have four pre-season games in Staples Center over the next six days (though they won't necessarily be the home team in all of them), then they have eight days between the final pre-season game and the start of the season against the Blazers Oct. 27th (get your tickets for Clips Nation Night, by the way). Vinny Del Negro is no doubt looking forward to next week and those eight precious days of uninterrupted practice heading into the season.
Before he gets there, he has to deal with a few more pesky pre-season games. It will be interesting to see how he handles the rotation over these last four games. According to Lisa Dillman, Baron Davis suffered no ill-effects of his pre-season debut in Mexico City, so ostensibly VDN has all of his starters available to him. On the other hand, DeAndre Jordan tweaked a hamstring south of the border (which explains his second half DNP), Willie Warren is still nursing a strained adductor, and Craig Smith has been dealing with a bad back (neither played against the Spurs).
Despite those minor injuries, the Clippers head into this stretch of their pre-season schedule with most of their options available. However, with four games in six days, it's possible that some guys are going to get some days off as well.
The game against the Spurs was the first time the Clippers featured the likely regular season starting lineup of Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Gomes, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. In fact, they were without two starters in blowout losses at Portland and Golden State, as in addition to Davis, VDN chose to rest Gordon and Kaman respectively.
Whether it was for the 19,000 fans in Mexico City or because VDN wanted to win, the game against the Spurs was the first time the Clippers played a relatively normal rotation this pre-season. In the first three games, only Rasual Butler had cracked 30 minutes of playing time in any single game (he logged 31 against Portland). On Tuesday, Griffin (37), Gordon (36) and Kaman (34) all played regular season type minutes. All the more reason to keep an eye on the minutes heading into this busy stretch.
The pre-season is tricky. You want to get your rotation set. You want the players to have a chance to build some rapport on the court. But you also want to get a chance to see the rookies and free agents play in order to evaluate those lesser known quantities, and you sure don't want to get anybody hurt or worn out playing meaningless games. So it's hard to know what to expect in these games.
One thing we can expect is to see more of Baron Davis, barring complications from his knee. He's been brought along slowly, but it will be important for him to log more serious minutes in these remaining practice games.
The best news for Clips Nation is that tonight's game marks the return of Milph to TV. In addition to tonight's game, next Tuesday's game against Sacramento will also be on Prime Ticket. There is no TV that I know of for the games this weekend. Surprisingly, even if the Clippers play the Lakers Sunday, the game will not be on TV - it's the only Lakers pre-season game this year not being televised. Go figure.
For the Nuggets, this is their third pre-season game. They beat Portland and lost to Minnesota in their first two. The Nuggets will be one of the more interesting teams to keep an eye on this season. Many are guessing that they're a likely team to drop in the Western Conference, given the uncertainty regarding the future of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony isn't the only concern though. Kenyon Martin is a couple of months away from playing after off-season knee surgery and free agent signing Al Harrington limped off the court early in their first game with plantar fasciitis, leaving the power forward position completely unsettled for the moment. Of course, the last time everyone dismissed the Nuggets was about this time of year two seasons ago, after they had traded Marcus Camby to the Clippers in a cost cutting move. Instead of blowing up the team, the Nuggets traded for Chauncey Billups and went on a run to the Western Conference finals.