Clippers basketball is returning to Los Angeles for the first time since June, and what better matchup than to face off against the talented Denver Nuggets? These two recent playoff foes will meet on the court after holding training camps just miles apart in San Diego, the Clippers practicing at San Diego State University and the Nuggets at UC San Diego.
While that aspect connecting the two franchises could be seen as just coincidence, it’s safe to say that their competition on the court will be underscored by shared stinging recent history. Even with the reigning NBA MVP, the Denver Nuggets’ season ended in a sweep by the Phoenix Suns, and we at Clips Nation are all too familiar with the reasons underlying the Clippers’ exit from the most recent playoffs. Both teams are also missing one of their top two players to a knee injury and will have to play much of the year in their absence. Taking this into consideration, both teams will be playing with a chip on their shoulder, with something to prove before unwarranted narratives start forming as the season continues.
When: Monday, October 4, 7:30 p.m. PT
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports West
Opposing perspective: Denver Stiffs
Clippers: Nicolas Batum, Paul George, Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Jason Preston
Nuggets: Will Barton, Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray
However, the two teams may not be able to immediately demonstrate all of the improvements they made this summer — the Nuggets will have to deal with the loss of Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray’s injury, and the Clippers will have to help their new additions get comfortable in the team’s system. These new additions might perhaps be the most exciting players to pay attention to during the game, with Eric Bledsoe being a starter and Justise Winslow or Brandon Boston potentially filling in the minutes left by Leonard’s absence.
Make sure to keep an eye on the Clippers big men; we could be pleasantly surprised by Ivica Zubac or Isaiah Hartenstein. During training camp, Zubac has been practicing his perimeter game, and Hartenstein’s commitment to the team and his teammates as a training camp pickup is admirable (he was caught dancing with Serge Ibaka at the SDSU gym). Harry Giles is another motivated player in the rotation, so the Clippers frontcourt could end up being a hidden strength throughout the preseason and into the regular season.
This game will not tell the whole story of the Clippers’ summer self-improvements, and it won’t promise anything for the upcoming season. What it could hint at, though, is where the players are at, and whether or not these players are equipped to handle a talented Nuggets team in the preseason and, potentially, in the playoffs.