Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles CA
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: TNT, AM 570 Radio
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Larry Nance, Brook Lopez
Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Out, Suspension; Josh Hart Out, Achilles; Julius Randle Probable, Ribs
After months without Clipper basketball, the last two nights have been especially painful—watching most of the NBA’s other teams kick off their seasons, seeing our fellow fans from around the league react to the debuts of their teams’ new players, and sitting idly on the sideline.
Tonight, however, Los Angeles fans get to take their turn. At 7:30 Pacific time, fans can flock to STAPLES Center or turn on TNT and see the Clippers and Lakers in action for the first time in 2017-18—a season of change for both franchises. The Lakers are finally hoping to turn the page on an extended stretch of lottery appearances, as they feature star rookie Lonzo Ball (as well as their other impressive rookie, Kyle Kuzma). How their young core fares this year could influence major free agency decisions in the summers to come, potentially making this year the first step to their next championship push. For the Clippers, playing without Chris Paul for the first time in six years, it’s an opportunity to prove that the franchise can retain the level of legitimacy without Paul that it had never been able to obtain before him. The rotation is stuffed full of exciting newcomers, with Austin Rivers, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan as the only notable holdovers. Can Lonzo Ball live up to steep expectations in his NBA debut? Can the Clippers maintain their status as a playoff team in the Western Conference without Chris Paul? Both narratives kick off tonight.
The Big Picture
The Clippers finally have everyone healthy after a little bit of a rocky pre-season, and they’re reading to get going tonight against their cross-town rivals. Integrating three new starters and eleven new roster players (including two-way contract players Jamil Wilson and C.J. Williams) will be a tall task for Doc Rivers, especially early this season, but they’ll have to find their footing early on in a competitive Western Conference. Games against teams like the Lakers, who aren’t likely to compete for a playoff spot, are crucial early opportunities for this Clippers team to start building their win total.
Fortunately, the chemistry already seems to be coming along both on and off the court, especially with newcomer Milos Teodosic facilitating offensive ball movement and getting everyone involved. Patrick Beverley has also stepped into a leadership role, setting an example with his defensive intensity. Look for other newcomers like Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and Willie Reed to make an impact in their first game as Clippers.
It’s an exciting time to be a Lakers fan—especially after the rough time they’ve had in the last few seasons. Players like Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram have been promising, but none of them brought the same level of excitement and electricity to the franchise that new rookie Lonzo Ball has. Finally, the Lakers feel like they have a legitimate superstar—which makes it easier to start defining long-term roles for the other prospects. Will Ball’s potential be actualized? That remains to be seen—starting tonight.