The evening marks the final opening home game for the Los Angeles Clippers at the Crypto.com Arena in downtown LA before they move into their own arena – which will be the brand new, shiny and high-tech Intuit Dome in Inglewood. Finally, they’ll get some much-needed separation from their glorified hallway rivals, the Lakers.
For now, this season is their focus and their chance to get it right with a closing championship window. The Clippers are entering the season with a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with a third All-Star in Russell Westbrook. However, fans can't ignore the fact their stars are all over the age of 32.
Here are some things to watch for as the Clippers season begins.
A Healthy Roster
Kawhi Leonard made it clear on Media Day that he’s tired of being asked about injuries and load management. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is ready to move forward and says he wants to play as much basketball as possible this season.
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"If I’m able to play, I’ll play basketball. I work out every day in the summertime to play the game, not to sit and watch people play," he said. "No league policy is helping me to play more games."
Starting this season, the NBA rolled out a new rest policy and now teams could be fined for benching multiple stars in certain situations, such as nationally televised games.
As a unit, the Clippers have been seemingly unfazed by the new rule.
"If our players are healthy, they’re going to play," Ty Lue said.
"I feel good and I'm ready to go," Leonard said before Clippers practice Tuesday as reported by ESPN.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Bones Hyland remained questionable for Wednesday night. However, everyone else is good to go.
James Harden Watch
Rumors have been circulating for months about a potential James Harden trade to the Clippers. Harden has voiced wanting to team up with Russell Westbrook again.
"Is he willing to take a lesser role?" Paul Pierce asked on FS1’s "Undisputed" on Tuesday. "He hasn’t been there for training camp. Westbrook understands the system, he played well for them at the end of last year, and so, is he willing to drop his ego?"
"At some point, this league is going to say ‘no’ to James Harden," Skip Bayless said as he chimed in on the topic. "He has loser tangibles where when you need him the most, you trust him the least."
Rachel Nichols was in the minority and said she does see a role for Harden with the Clippers and highlighted that his relationship with Daryl Morey, President of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, has become irreconcilable.
"If we were about divorce levels at the start of training camp, we are at like Kim/Kanye, Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt levels coming into this week," Rachel Nichols said. "This is about to get nasty."
The Clippers were unwilling to include Terance Mann in a trade package to Philadelphia and so far, the two teams have yet to make a deal.
Working with the Same Roster
Not only was Terance Mann not up for grabs in a James Harden trade, but the fan-favorite was also named as the Clippers fifth starter in the power forward position, alongside Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Ivica Zubac.
Terance Mann #14 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
After struggling last season, Coach Lue made the decision to pull Marcus Morris Sr. from the starting lineup.
The Clippers second unit also packs a punch offensively and defensively. They added KJ Martin in the offseason, have a dependable backup center in Mason Plumlee, and will get plenty of explosive offense from Bones Hyland and Norman Powell. While Robert Covington didn’t make the cut as a starter, he should see more time on the floor this season.
Plumlee and Westbrook took pay cuts to re-sign with the Clippers, indicating what a strong brotherhood the Clippers have going into the season.
With good vibes and good health, this team is sure to be a threat in the West.
Tip-off is scheduled Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Crypto.com Arena.