Preview: Clippers Start Season In Sacramento
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – The Clippers’ championship aspirations start with Game 1.
As their 2015-16 season begins Wednesday in Sacramento, they know they can’t look too far ahead in the West, despite all the talent they’ve acquired.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “I want to see what we have. Everyone is better. We made a lot of changes….Even though you add all that talent, it doesn’t mean you’re better yet. You get into the season and find out.”
That begins against a Kings team led by DeMarcus Cousins which Rivers believes will make a jump and could potentially make a push for the playoffs if all goes right for them.
Tipoff: 7:00pm PDT
“They’re really talented,” Rivers said. “When you have a really talented team with length, like they’re a long basketball team, then they’re going to create problems.”
Jamal Crawford said the Clippers will ultimately be judged by their postseason success, but as excited as they are for that time in the season, they know they need to get to that point first. Crawford missed the final preseason game with a triceps injury, but he said he should be fine for the regular season opener.
The Clippers enter the regular season relatively healthy. Chris Paul said he’s not sure how long his fractured finger will need to be taped for, but just as he was toward the end of the preseason, he’ll be on the court for the opener.
Paul’s not underestimating this Kings group, either, which now features Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli, in addition to its typical nucleus.
“I think they’re going to be a good team this year,” Paul said. “They’ve got Rondo now leading them; DeMarcus Cousins keeps getting better year in and year out; they added Marco Belinelli; they’ve got Rudy (Gay), who they’ll probably play through most nights. They’ve got a team.”
DeAndre Jordan vs. DeMarcus Cousins – There’s no easing into things as Jordan begins his Defensive Player of the Year campaign against one of the most dominant big men in the game. Cousins had 34 points in his first game against the Clippers last year, but he only played in one of the final three matchups against the Clippers. The last time both Jordan and Cousins were on the court, Cousins finished with 21 points and four rebounds, while Jordan had a double-double with 11 points and 15
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
- Starters and Finishers – At first, it appeared Wesley Johnson would be the starter at small forward, but the Clippers began to favor Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson late in the preseason with the starters.
Now, Rivers said Stephenson will “most likely” make the opening day start, though Pierce said he’ll be ready for anything.
“Most likely I’ll probably be coming off the bench, I’ll probably anticipate that,” Pierce said. “It’s definitely a different mindset in the way you prepare.”
Rivers continues to state he doesn’t care who starts as much as he cares who finishes. That’s something he said he’s still deciding on and will depend on the matchups. If the game is close late, the group Rivers finishes with will be one to keep an eye on.
- Keeping The Streak - The Clippers set a franchise record with 26 road wins last season, and they can continue adding to a separate road franchise mark at the start of the 2015-16 season.
Dating back to last season, the Clippers have won eight consecutive road games, marking the longest road winning streak in franchise history. They can keep that going Wednesday.
“My thing for us, I thought we didn’t treat road trips with the proper respect,” Rivers said. “That was something we talked about last year. I thought my first year here, going on the road, I thought it was like we were going on a camping trip. That’s how you felt. Everyone was making their plans for restaurants and all this stuff, and I was like, this is a work trip. That’s how we had to view it.”
Rivers said he had a staff meeting about improving the road mentality, and he thought last year he felt a change in the right direction, which was evident in the Clippers’ record.
“You could see it,” Rivers said. “When we were on the road, guys were on the road to play basketball. I thought we had to change that mentality.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Chris Paul –“It’s just excitement. You play the preseason and stuff like that, and this is what you work out all summer for. This is what you train for. Now we get to get it started.”
Blake Griffin – “It’s kind of like the calm before the storm a little bit I guess, but I’m ready to go. I’m ready to play some games. After playing preseason games, you’re pretty much ready to get to the real thing.”
NOTES: Kings guard Darren Collison played the 2013-14 season with the Clippers and also spent 2009-10 with Chris Paul in New Orleans and 2010-12 with Lance Stephenson in Indiana … Doc Rivers coached and Paul Pierce played alongside Rajon Rondo for seven seasons in Boston … The Clippers are 16-3 in their last 19 games against the Kings … After losing the first game against the Kings last season, in which DeMarcus Cousins had 34 points, the Clippers won all three games against Sacramento in 2015, scoring at least 116 points each time … The Clippers made 17 3-pointers in their last matchup with the Kings, the most made threes in a road game in franchise history … The Clippers have won their opener in three of the last four seasons