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Clippers vs Kings Preview: Heated In-State Rivals Tip Off Tonight

We've waited long enough, and it's time to get this show on the road.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Los Angeles Clippers (0-0)

Sacramento Kings (0-0)
October 28th, 2015 — 7:00 PM PDT
Sleep Train Arena — Sacramento, CA
TV: Prime Ticket/CSN-CA | Radio: KFWB 980 AM/KWKW 1330 AM/KHTK 1140 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('14-'15)
56-26 Record 29-53
19-11 East 11-19
37-15 West 18-34
12-4 Division 7-9
30-11 Home 18-23
26-15 Road 11-30
19-22 .500+ 9-36
37-4 .500– 20-17
1-1 OT 3-3
Projected Starters
Chris Paul PG Rajon Rondo
J.J. Redick SG Ben McLemore
Lance Stephenson SF Rudy Gay
Blake Griffin PF DeMarcus Cousins
DeAndre Jordan C Kosta Koufos
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
96.96 (T-10th) Pace 97.92 (8th)
109.8 (1st) OffRtg 102.5 (T-15th)
103.0 (15th) DefRtg 106.5 (27th)
+6.9 (2nd) NetRtg –4.0 (25th)
Injury Report
Rudy Gay (personal) — Questionable
'14-'15 Season Series (Clippers won 3–1)
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
Los Angeles
Kings 98, Clippers 92
Box Score
Clippers 117, Kings 108
Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 126, Kings 99
Box Score
Clippers 116, Kings 105
Box Score

The Big Picture:

It's time for some NBA basketball, ladies and gentlemen.  On the home side tonight, we have the Sacramento Kings, an eclectic mix of talent looking to put it all together and make a push for a playoff spot this season under George Karl.  On the away side, the Clippers want a strong start to their season as they look to break out of their second-round trance and into the Western Conference Finals (and beyond) this season.  In a tight playoff race, every win is going to count, so it'll be important for both of these two teams to start out on the right foot.

The Antagonist:

The Sacramento Kings aren't the Clippers' best friends (though who is?), with DeMarcus Cousins having quite the history against the Clips.  From this cheap shot on J.J. Redick that sidelined the shooting guard to this example of not allowing former Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas to shake Chris Paul's hand after a game, Cousins has shown questionable maturity and a little bit of fire towards the Clippers in the past.  The Kings, however, are on the brink of relevance for the first time in Cousins' career, with additions such as Rajon Rondo and Kosta Koufos and head coach George Karl.  The Kings should be competing with the Suns for 3rd place in the Pacific Division and they clearly have playoff aspirations this season.

The Subplots:

  • Roster Turnover: Both of these teams will have some big differences tonight compared to when they met last season.  The Kings have replaced Jason Thompson, Ray McCallum, Nik Stauskas, and Derrick Williams with starters Rajon Rondo and Kosta Koufos, back-up Marco Belinelli, and and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein The Clippers, on the other hand, have revamped their bench, adding Pablo Prigioni, Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith, and Cole Aldrich.  The Clippers will also have one new starter, Lance Stephenson.
  • Lance Starting: Speaking of that new starter, it was up for debate for a while, but for me it was clear from day 1 that Lance would be the Clippers' best option at SF.  He's a wing-style SG who can easily slide over, and while he might be a little undersized, he's hyper-athletic and has defensive experience against the types of LeBron James and Kevin Durant from his time in Indiana.  I've been projecting that Lance would be a potential starting SF for the Clippers since before they were even rumored to be interested in him, and it only makes sense to pick him over Wesley Johnson in the starting lineup (especially since the Clippers already have J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford at shooting guard).
  • Big Ball? The NBA is shifting towards small ball--that's what everyone across the league will tell you.  An "anchor" big man with four versatile perimeter players around him.  Look at Golden State, with all of their 6'6"-6'10" SG/SF and SF/PF types, and the appeal is undeniable.  They just won a championship by being versatile, spreading the floor, and using their athletes to switch around defensive assignments.  However, just because that's one team's successful style doesn't mean that the whole league is shifting that direction.  Tonight, we're seeing two teams with two BIG big men go head to head: Cousins, Koufos, Griffin, and Jordan are all no joke in the paint.  Of course, if you've been a Clippers fan for a while, you couldn't read that title without thinking of this:

  • Back-to-Back: How else would the Clippers open their season, if not with a back-to-back.  After the game tonight, the team will travel back to Los Angeles to face off with the Dallas Mavericks in a much more highly anticipated match-up.  No offense, Sacramento, but after the DeAndre Jordan debacle this summer, there's not much of a contest here.  How well the Clippers do in the national eye on national television tomorrow night will have a lot to do with how well they play tonight against a hungry Kings team playing their home opener.  If the Clips can put Sacramento away relatively early, they'll earn some rest for tomorrow night's game.  If Paul and Griffin have to put in long minutes tonight, it could leave the Clippers looking slow on national TV tomorrow.
  • Rajon Rondo: Rondo won a ring for Clippers coach Doc Rivers when the two were together in Boston.  Since Rivers left Boston, Rondo was traded to Dallas, where he struggled mightily last season and was let walk by the team.  This summer, he found his footing in Sacramento, and he'll attempt to get his career back on track under George Karl.  If Rondo plays like himself, he's one of the very best point guards in the NBA.  But, similarly to Lance Stephenson's situation, he'll have to prove to the league that he can get back to his high level of play.
  • Clips Nation: If you don't already, make sure to make Clips Nation your top stop for Clippers news.  We publish more Clippers-related content than anyone (literally), and we'll be here with previews, gamethreads, recaps, and film breakdowns for every game this season, along with TONS of analysis columns and multiple daily news blurbs.  I'm tremendously proud of the talent on my staff this season and I'm looking forward to this year being the best season ever for the Clippers, for Clips Nation, and for Clippers fans and all of our readers, whether you root for LAC or not.
  • Delayed Preview: Sorry for the delayed preview, everyone.  I've been bouncing around doctors the past few weeks trying to deal with a fractured cheekbone, and I was trying to get my pre-op clearance taken care of today and it turned into a more time-consuming even than I expected.  Thanks to Adithya, who put together the information tables at the top of this preview.