As the summer drags on, we grow closer and closer to the release of the 2014-15 NBA schedule. So far we’ve had a few leaks (Heat-Cavaliers/Knicks-Wizards on Christmas, possible Spurs-Heat season opener), but in regards to the rest of the league, there has been no news on the full 82 games.
So while we sit here and wait on the schedule–it’s likely to be released in the next week or two–a question arose in regards to the Clippers: who should they play in their season opener? While there’s no concrete answers–the schedule makers will ultimately decide this–there are several ways the NBA could go to make sure one of their marquee franchises (this really doesn’t feel right rolling off the tongue!) have an excellent season debut, so we look at a few teams who would best give fans the best matchup alongside Los Angeles to kickstart the ’14-15 season:
Los Angeles Lakers
Last year’s season opener is something the Clippers didn’t forget. In the year where the Clippers were prepared to thrust themselves into the conversation of championship contender, the Lakers spoiled their coming out party–Xavier Henry scored a then-career high points with 23 for Christ’s sake.
Of course, the Clippers were able to seek their revenge in the remaining three meetings, beating by at least 35 points on each occasion. But that opening match stung and it was one Lakers fans weren’t really willing to let go.
Why is this matchup compelling despite the clear talent disparity between the franchise’s? Because it’s opening night. For some odd reason, we judge teams on an even keel in the beginning weeks of the season. Everyone is 0-0 and the manta of ‘anything can happen’ leaves many lingering on a huge ‘maybe’. ‘Maybe Team X is good.’ ‘Maybe Team Y isn’t as good as we thought’. The Lakers probably aren’t going to be good. Hell, no probably, this team is headed back to the ‘lottery’. But at 0-0, there’s no team worn out from losing or torn down from injury. In their eyes, they’ve a chance until their record says others.
And did I mention that Kobe Bryant‘s healthy? We missed a Kobe vs. Clippers last season, but an opening night matchup would guarantee that Clippers get to view LA’s biggest star at least ONCE in 2014-15.
Public enemy number one. When it comes to excitement, Memphis has never been the go-to team in that department–they’re likely toward the bottom due to their sluggish, post-dominant play. But against the Clippers, the matchup is almost-always primetime television worthy.
All above instances have been pivotal moments in basketball these last few years as they’ve provided evidence to those who claim the NBA isn’t as soft as the old folks and revisionist attempt to put off. You really want your hate back? While it’s not the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons vs. Michael Jordan and the Bulls, it may not get anymore realer than this.
Golden State Warriors
Public enemy number two. The last time these two faced off, the Clippers, amidst the Donald Sterling drama, ending the Warriors playoffs hopes in a crucial Game 7. And while the Clippers advancing in the playoffs is always a sight to see, this one felt a bit incomplete.
Without Andrew Bogut (rib) out, there was a huge hole in the middle for Golden State–literally. Without their Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Clippers had a clear advantage in the frontcourt and outside of Game 1 when Blake Griffin was swamped with foul trouble, it showed. But with him healthy, it adds to this rivalry ten-fold.
On the floor, we know Bogut’s impact. He’s a force at the rim on defense and a threat when diving out of the pick-and-roll. But what Bogut does to the Clippers–specifically Blake Griffin–may matter more to the Warriors than his actual play. We all remember Christmas 2013. Bogut maniacally drove Griffin into ejection–whether rightfully or not is a discussion for another day. The nudges. The bumps. Bogut’s not afraid of looking for a reaction and unfortunately, the Clippers don’t shy away from them.
Once you add Steph, Klay, Iggy, Green Barnes vs. Paul, Jordan, Barnes, Redick to the equation, this becomes must-see television.
No Mark Jackson sucks–he was much apart of this rivalry as any player was, but hey, those are the breaks.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The last time we saw the Clippers, they were falling at the hands of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It wasn’t pretty either. Game 5 of that series sits on the brains of Clippers fans, creating the inevitable ‘what-ifs': What if Chris Paul doesn’t make those absurd turnovers?What if the Clippers win Game 6; do they win Game 7 with Serge Ibaka out? etc. etc. So what better way to kick off the season than by answering a few of these questions.
With the summer being kind to both franchises, each team would enter opening night with a healthy roster which bolds well for entertainment purposes. Paul. Westbrook. Durant. Griffin. Jordan. Ibaka. Redick. There may not be a bigger star-studded matchup across two teams in the league. Both teams defend at a similar level. Both teams score at a similar level. While the Clippers rely more on depth while the Thunder relies on their big guns to get the job done, these teams are dead-locked in terms of talent, tier, entertainment, etc.
Until the San Antonio Spurs are ripped from their mantle, this is a battle for the rights to second place, and seeing how last seeing came down to the wire–few games separated the second and third seed–this opening matchup will mean just as much as we want it to.
Let us know below who you think the Clippers should play in their 2014-15 season opener: