Today is the first in a series of days we’ve all been waiting for, the day when the Blazers line up for the first time against another team, and the basketball season officially begins. Portland gets there first game of the 2010-11 campaign against the Los Angeles Clippers.
If there is a team in the league that commiserates to some degree with the Greg Oden saga it would have to been the Clippers. After finishing the 2008-09 season with a dismal 19-63 record, the Clips won the right to take Blake Griffin with the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. After earning MVP honors of Summer League, Griffin was sidelined without playing a single NBA game with a fracture in his knee that would require surgery. This much we know, and as Blazer fans are overly familiar with. Griffin is healthy and expected to be in the lineup for the pre-season opener.
The Los Angeles Clippers are a team that seems to be in perpetual rebuilding mode, and 2010-11 is fixing to start out no different than many earlier Clippers seasons. Former Blazer coach Mike Dunleavy was shown the door a little over half way through last season after compiling a 21-28 record. His replacement, interim head coach Kim Hughes fared worse, finishing his stint at the Clippers helm 8-25. In the off-season LA brought in recently let go Chicago head coach Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro was dismissed from the Bulls after his second 41-41 season and two first-round playoff defeats.
The Clippers were an early participate in LeBron-apoloza over the summer, and having lost out to the Heat, the team is left with little star power but a crop of potential. The Clips are currently carrying seven rookies on their roster, including Griffin, with the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Jon Sheyer, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Bledsoe was selected 18th overall in the 2010 Draft as part of the group of Kentucky Wildcats that set the record for most players from one school drafted in the first round. Eighth overall pick, Aminu was selected to the ACC all-freshman team in 2009 as a freshman at Wake Forest. Sheyer, undrafted out of college, was the unquestioned leader of the 2010 NCAA National Champion Duke Blue Devils.
The 2010-11 Clippers will continue to feature two prominent veterans, point guard Baron Davis and center Chris Kaman. Davis has been at times the best point guard in the league and his own worst enemy in his 11 professional seasons, and Kaman has quietly become one of the Western Conferences most consistent big men, earning his first All-Star bid in 2009-10. With the addition of former Minnesota teammates Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes, the Clippers look to have plenty of potential weapons. The question is, will they be able to play up to that potential, or will they continue to languish in the basement of the NBA.
Check out Fully Clips for more indepth Clippers previews and analysis.
As far as the home team is concerned, Tuesday night they will be without any of their three seven footers. Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden are still an unannounced time away from taking the court, and former Clipper Marcus Camby will be out of action due to a lingering groin strain. Camby’s injury has been repeatedly, let me repeat that REPEATEDLY, called “not serious,” and due to the lack of depth at center position, at least in early going, his benching is likely precautionary. Second year enforcer Jeff Pendergraph is listed as the likely starter in Camby’s place.
Otherwise expect the Blazers to build on the hype that has thus far surrounded their last week of training camp. Everyone that attended FanFest will know who to watch, Wesley Matthews, and everybody should be paying attention to what’s happening with the back-up point guard situation. At this point, the back-up point guard position seems to be the only position with any room for shuffle. Today it belongs to Jerryd Bayless, but it’s his to lose. Look for Armon Johnson to get some time running the second unit, along with sets that include Matthews and Rudy Fernandez handling the ball and distribution duites.
Roll over to Blazersedge to catch Monday’s Camp Report and final thoughts on FanFest. While your there, congratulate Ben on his posh new gig. Also check out Blazers.com for their podcast which discusses, among other things, Wesley Matthews, Jerryd Bayless, and potential lineups.
So far the team is not planning to broadcast any of the pre-season games. 95.5 will have the call as always. Otherwise hope to see everyone at the Rose Garden. Tip-off time is 7pm.
I hope you’re all ready!