Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, California
When: 7:00 PM PT
How to Watch: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat
Lakers: Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, JaVale McGee
Clippers: Milos Teodosic Out (Hamstring), Luc Mbah a Moute Out (Leg)
Lakers: Lonzo Ball Questionable (Knee), Michael Beasley Probable (Ribs), Mo Wagner Out (Knee)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have cruised so far in preseason to a 2-0 record, looking mostly competent and at times quite dangerous. Their starting forwards have been the stars of the show: Danilo Gallinari looks healthy and as good as he’s been in the last few years, while Tobias Harris appears to have added some versatility to his game. If the Clippers are to be a playoff team in the Western Conference this year, those two guys need to be on their A-games, and so far, they have been. Other standouts of the first two games have been Pat Beverley (displaying his usual energy and fire), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (looking remarkably composed and under control for a rookie), and Montrezl Harrell, who is as unstoppable as ever on offense. After running out a regular season type rotation in the first game, Doc played the youngsters more in the second contest, which appears to be his plan tonight as well.
LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, is now a Laker. With his arrival, the Lakers’ near decade of walking in the wilderness came to an end. However, their veteran signings outside of LeBron James – Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley – were far, far less inspiring, being a mismatch of players who aren’t good fits with LeBron or who just aren’t good at all. The Lakers’ young core is much more promising. Lonzo Ball struggled with his scoring and shooting as a rookie, but displayed fantastic defense and passing abilities that more than made up for his weaknesses. Brandon Ingram seems to be overrated by the NBA media, yet he took a massive leap forward in his second season, and looks poised to be a dangerous all-around wing for years to come. Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both solid “3 and D” players, and Kyle Kuzma is a dangerous scorer off the bench. All in all, there’s a lot of talent on the Lakers. The problem is that it’s young talent, and every year of LeBron’s prime that goes by without a deep playoff run is a year wasted. The Lakers could be a very good team this year if LeBron stays healthy and their young guys take steps forward. They could also be kind of a mess, falling backwards into the playoffs due to LeBron’s greatness but with little aspirations to anything more. It will be interesting to see how they develop this season.
- Doc continues to rest veterans: Doc sat Avery Bradley and Lou Williams to rest up for the Wolves’ game, and said yesterday he will rest one or two more of his veterans tonight. If I had to guess, Pat Beverley and Danilo Gallinari are the likely targets to sit out tonight’s game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and one of Mike Scott or Wes Johnson would probably start in their stead, and Jerome Robinson, Ty Wallace, and Sindarius Thornwell should get more minutes as well.
- LeBron has shifted the balance of power: The crowd tonight will almost certainly be dominated by Lakers’ fans. In fact, every Clippers-Lakers game at Staples this year will tilt that way. LeBron James’ arrival combined with the final departure of the Lob City era will make the balance between Lakers’ and Clippers’ fans more uneven than at any time since Blake Griffin first donned his Clippers jersey in 2010. The Clippers will probably be a good team this year. They will almost certainly be a fun team this year. But they are going to get very little coverage or attention barring major news, and it’s mostly due to the resurgence of the Lakers. Outside of the Lakers and Cavs, no team was more impacted by LeBron’s decision than the Clippers, and not in a good way.
- Trimming the roster: NBA teams must set their 15 man regular season rosters by October 15. That date is now just little more than a week away, and the Clippers still have 17 players with NBA contracts on their roster. Jawun Evans appears to be the roster player the furthest away from the rotation, and that along with his small contract makes him a strong possibility to be cut. However, veteran forward Wes Johnson has barely played thus far, and is apparently the 6th forward on the roster. Even though he has a guaranteed $6 million contract for the upcoming season, he too is a waive or cut candidate. Milos Teodosic has already been injured, which doesn’t help his case, while Sindarius Thornwell did not play well in his extend minutes on Wednesday night. So really, there’s no more clarity on this situation than there was on Media Day. Every game matters for these guys, so it will be curious to see who receives minutes (or doesn’t) tonight.