It may only be a pre-season game, but it may be the most anticipated pre-season game in Los Angeles Clippers history. The team has recorded franchise best winning percentage marks in each of the last three seasons, and this edition is arguably better than any of those three. Add in the fact that Doc Rivers is entering his second season as head coach, with a core group of players returning that includes all five starters and several key reserves, and you can see why people are excited about this Clippers team.
As if all that weren't enough, during the off-season the Clippers swapped the worst owner in pro sports for the most enthusiastic and richest owner in pro sports. (It remains to be seen if he is among the 'best' owners, but he is undeniably rich and enthusiastic -- those are just facts.) So it's the dawn of a new era for the Clippers.
They face one of their most intense rivals, the Golden State Warriors, in this pre-season opener. It seems unlikely that things will get too heated in a meaningless game in the first week in October -- but then again, you never know with these two teams. If Mark Jackson were still around, one wouldn't be shocked to see Draymond Green and company going after Blake Griffin and trying to get him injured for the season -- that's less likely to happen under new coach Steve Kerr, a very different personality than Jackson.
The question is, will the pleasure these teams get from beating each other outweigh the nonchalance of the first pre-season game? My guess is no. The starters will play light minutes, the intensity will be dialed way back. But we'll see.
As for basketball, watch the small forward rotation closely. Matt Barnes is the de facto starter, though Rivers has admitted he'd like to bring Barnes off the bench. Who is going to be the backup or possibly the one that steps into a starters' role? Will it be second year player, Reggie Bullock? Recent free agent signing Chris Douglas-Roberts? Aussie free agent Joe Ingles? Rookie C.J. Wilcox (more of a shooting guard)? Or will Rivers eschew all those choices and just lean on small ball lineups with Jamal Crawford at the three? We honestly have no clue how the wing rotation is going to shake out this season. There are at least four guys who could be the 15th man or a major part of the rotation when all is said and done.
So sure, it's just pre-season. But it's Clippers basketball. It's Ralph and Mike, it's Chris Paul, it's Blake Griffin. Let's do this.
This post can serve as you open thread tonight.