2013-14 SCHEDULE PRESENTS INTRIGUE, CHALLENGE

Eighty-four days until the journey begins.

The NBA released its 82-game schedule for the 2013-14 season Tuesday evening. Following two of the most historic seasons in franchise history, the Clippers open the 2013-14 campaign on Tuesday, Oct. 29 in a “road” game against the Lakers.  

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The season opener pits the intra-city rivals against one another in the night cap of the tipoff special on TNT. It is one of 29 nationally televised games for the reloaded Clippers, who play two games on ABC’s Sunday NBA showcase and 27 on NBA TV, TNT and ESPN. The remainder of the schedule will be broadcast exclusively on Prime Ticket.

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The Clippers enter the new year with championship aspirations after a record-settingDeAndre Jordan tip off vs the Lakers 56-win regular season in 2012-13 and a summer that netted former NBA Coach of the Year and 2008 Champion Doc Rivers as well as the re-signing of superstar Chris Paul and forward Matt Barnes and the additions of Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Byron Mullens, J.J. Redick and first-round draft pick Reggie Bullock. 

Their path to next April’s playoffs will begin with a challenging opening two months. The Clippers open the season with 11 of their first 16 games against 2012-13 playoff teams, including at Miami and a pair of home and road games against Oklahoma City and new-look Houston. They will also endure a seven-game road trip from Dec. 4-14, which includes Rivers’ return to Boston (Dec. 11) as well as stops in Memphis, Cleveland and Brooklyn. It will be the longest non-Grammy road trip since 2004-05, when the Clippers went 2-5 on a seven-game trip from Mar. 27 to Apr. 6, 2005.

Here is a look at some additional things that immediately stand out about the Clippers schedule:

● There are 17 back-to-back games, including 10 on the road. That number is down from 20 back-to-backs in 2012-13.   

● The Clippers play 34 games before Jan. 1, 2014, half on the road and half at home.  

● The Clippers, once again, play as part of the NBA’s five-game Christmas extravaganza. It is the third consecutive year they have taken part in the special showcase, and second time in that span they have faced the Warriors in Oakland. They are 2-4 on Christmas since moving to Los Angeles, but have won two in a row.

● Additionally, the Clippers play on Halloween (home opener vs. Golden State), New Year’s Day (vs. Charlotte), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (at Detroit), and St. Patrick’s Day (at Denver). The team will also be in Denver on Super Bowl Sunday but have the night off before playing the Nuggets on Monday, Feb. 3.

● They play the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 16. It will be the first time Rivers coached against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, since the trio helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2007-08.

● The Clippers face off against the renamed New Orleans Pelicans for the first time on Dec. 16. Considering Paul spent the first six years of his career in New Orleans (technically the first two were in Oklahoma City when the Hornets relocated due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina), you have to wonder how he will feel about his former team’s new nickname.

● They have five days off between games, including the All-Star break, playing Wednesday, Feb. 12 and returning to the court on Tuesday, Feb. 18. All-in-all, the do not play a single road game from Feb. 4-20.

● The Clippers play Denver twice in the Mile High City, but only once on the dreaded second night of a back-to-back when they travel to Denver on Mar. 17 a night after playing the Cavaliers at home.  

● They are at home for all but two games in April when the Clippers take on seven different Western Conference teams to close out the season.

● One of the most trying stretches of the schedule will be immediately after the All-Star break. Three out of five will be on the road, all versus the West, with San Antonio, at Memphis and at Oklahoma City falling in succession.

● The Clippers take on four Western Conference teams three times: Portland, Utah, San Antonio and Memphis, meaning they could catch a small break. The Grizzlies and Spurs made the conference finals a year ago and the Blazers are expected to be much improved. The Clippers get the defending Western Conference champions twice in L.A. and once in the Alamo City, while they play two out of three on the road against Memphis.

● The first game against the Memphis Grizzlies is on Nov. 18 at Staples Center. It is the only game in the regular season the Clippers face the Grizzlies at home and will mark the 21st time the budding rivals have played since Jan. 2012.

● The defending champion Heat visit Staples Center Feb. 5, nearly three months to the day after they host the Clippers in Miami (Nov. 7).

FEELING A DRAFTVictor Oladipo in Summer League

The following games are the first opportunities home or away the Clippers will have against some of the top draft choices of 2013.

● Nov. 6 at Orlando: Victor Oladipo (No. 2)

● Dec. 7 at Cleveland: Anthony Bennett (No. 1)

● Dec. 14 at Washington: Otto Porter (No. 3)

● Dec. 30 vs. Phoenix: Alex Len (No. 5)

● Jan. 1 vs. Charlotte: Cody Zeller (No. 4)

NEW FACES, NEW PLACESDwight Howard dunking as a Houston Rocket

The following games are the first home or away games the Clippers will get versus some of the top players who changed teams in the offseason:

● Oct. 31 vs. Golden State: Andre Iguodala

● Nov. 4 vs. Houston: Dwight Howard

● Nov. 16 vs. Brooklyn: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

● Dec. 7 at Cleveland: Andrew Bynum

● Jan. 20 at Detroit: Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings

NEW FACES, OLD PLACES

Four Clippers players will face their former teams for the first time in 2013-14. Here are the dates of those games:

● Jared Dudley first game in Phoenix is Mar. 4, but his first game against the Suns is at Staples on Dec. 30.

● Darren Collison returns to Dallas on Jan. 3.

● J.J. Redick returns to Milwaukee, where he spent the second half of last season, on Jan. 27.

● Byron Mullens returns to Charlotte on Jan. 22.

REMEMBER ME?Chauncey Billups in Detroit

The following games are first-time matchups against some prominent former Clippers.

● Monday, Nov. 11: Popular reserve big man Ronny Turiaf and the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Staples Center for the first time. You can be certain there will be an honorary “Turiaf Twirl” or two from the Clippers faithful when Turiaf checks in.

● Wednesday, Nov. 13: Former assistant coach Robert Pack returns to Los Angeles for the first of four matchups between the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Pack was named to the Thunder’s coaching staff on July 31. 

● Monday, Dec. 30: The return of Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler will coincide with Dudley’s first game against his former team. Bledsoe, one of the more dynamic and popular young players in Clippers lore, spent his first three NBA seasons with the team and Butler came to L.A. shortly after the lockout as one of the most marquee free agent acquisitions in team history.

● Monday, Jan. 20: The Clippers take on Chauncey Billups and the Detroit Pistons in the Motor City where Billups, who spent two years in L.A., helped redefine his career and led the Pistons to the 2004 title. 

HOMEWARD BOUNDBlake Griffin in Oklahoma City

Ryan Hollins (Pasadena), Collison (Rancho Cucamonga) and Dudley (San Diego) are all Southern California natives playing 43 regular-season games close to home. However, a number of other Clippers players will not return home as often. Here is a look at when a few other members of the roster go back to the places they call home:

● Matt Barnes (Fair Oaks, CA) Sacramento on Nov. 1 and 29

● Reggie Bullock (Kinston, NC) Charlotte on Jan. 22

● Jamal Crawford (Seattle, CA) Portland on Dec. 26 and Apr. 16

● Willie Green (Detroit, MI) Detroit on Jan. 20

● Blake Griffin (Edmond, OK) Oklahoma City on Nov. 21 and Jan. 23

● DeAndre Jordan (Bellaire, TX) Houston on Nov. 9 and Mar. 29

● Byron Mullens (Canal Winchester, OH) Cleveland on Dec. 7

● Chris Paul (Winston-Salem, NC) Charlotte on Jan. 22

● J.J. Redick (Roanoke, VA) Washington on Dec. 14

● Maalik Wayns (Philadelphia, PA) Philadelphia on Dec. 9