I watched a few minutes of the pre-season game between the Sixers and Wizards on NBA-TV yesterday. It looked like there were about 12 people in the Wells Fargo Arena. But you know, it's pre-season. What do you expect? No one's going to go out in the cold to see a pre-season game.
Well, it isn't that cold in LA, but that's not the reason Staples Center will be jam packed tonight when the Clippers host the Lakers. Monday night's game when the Lakers were the home team was a sell out, not to mention the most widely watched pre-season game ever on NBA-TV, and tonight, the first chance for the Clippers' fan base to see Chris Paul play, will be even bigger. The minute Paul takes the floor, the place is going to go nuts.
You may have heard the Kobe Bryant will not be playing in this game. He has a torn ligament in his wrist, a result of the fall he took after having his dunk attempt rejected by DeAndre Jordan, and will sit out tonight, though it's unclear if he'll miss the Christmas opener versus Chicago.
It makes sense for Kobe to miss this game, on a lot of levels. Obviously, it's just a pre-season game so there's absolutely no reason to play hurt (and Kobe is famous for playing hurt). Moreover, the Lakers have absolutely nothing to gain in this game, and lots to lose. They were blown out by the Clippers on Monday, but they can justifiably say, "meh, it's only pre-season." Still, people made a big deal of the loss, and a second loss at full strength wouldn't be easily dismissed. With Bryant sitting this one out, the outcome is irrelevant.
But it's still a chance to see the new Clippers play together.
What to watch for:
- The new vets. Paul and Chauncey Billups could not have played much better on Monday, and Caron Butler looked comfortable as well. And that was after only a couple of practices together. The team has had a couple more practices now, not to mention the game experience from Monday. It's hard to imagine that they'll be better - I'd settle for just as good.
- Trey Thompkins. Rookie power forward Thompkins had 8 points and 5 rebounds in limited minutes Monday night. The Clippers would benefit greatly if he were able to contribute from the beginning this season.
- Travis Leslie. Thompkins' Georgia teammate and fellow second round pick, Leslie has been nursing a sprained ankle and did not play Monday. I'm anxious to see the uber-athlete in action.
- Griffin. Griffin struggled Monday, as he frequently has against Gasol. It is worth noting though that in one game last season, after a similar struggle against Gasol for three quarters, Griffin took over in the fourth quarter. Tonight, I'd settle for some decisive moves, and maybe a made face up jumper or two.
- Posters. DeAndre put Pau Gasol AND Andrew Bynum on his poster in a single play Monday - perhaps the greatest one dunk haul in the history of posterization. Does anyone else remember DJ as a rookie, when he tried to dunk everything, even when it was physically impossible? He'd go up for a dunk and end up being six inches short of the rim because he started too far away. That's what I thought when he went up for this one - "What's he doing? He'll never get there!" Man, was I wrong. And Bynum and Gasol, too of the longest defenders in the league, were wrong if they thought they could stop him, as neither came close to getting high enough to challenge Jordan. This team will create many of those moments this season, and hopefully we'll get a handful tonight.
Use this as your first half game thread. A second half thread will post at 8:45.