After what felt like a longer wait than normal, NBA professional basketball is set to tip-off today! Are you ready?
Did it sneak up on you?
It did me, I won’t even lie. I knew October was basketball month, but mentally I’ve been waiting on the regular season. I kinda forgot about the pre-season! So when I saw this tweet I was excited, but mentally told myself to chill because the season was still a few weeks ago. So, I chilled. Until I got a reminder that the Lakers play in two days and the Clippers play today.
I realize it’s just pre-season and these games don’t mean much, but still, legitimate NBA basketball is on TV today! If you are reading this and thinking “Umm, you’re kinda a geek“, well, I can understand your thinking. If you are reading this and find yourself getting the same tinge of excitement as me, well, then you are a real NBA fan!
The Clippers have five games to tune up, the Lakers have six. As mentioned earlier, NBA pre-season games don’t mean much. They provide fans an opportunity to see their teams in action after what seems like a very long off-season. They provide the teams coaching staffs to tinker with line-ups and to see what they might have in players they never coached before. For the players and refs they provide an opportunity to get ready for the games that matter.
The NBA pre-season is a warm up, nothing more.
Yet, there are some key observations each Los Angeles professional basketball team will likely key in on. Let’s take a look at some for both the Clippers and the Lakers. We will examine the Clippers today and the Lakers the morning of their first pre-season game.
1. The Starters
We know that Paul George is out to start the season, so Doc Rivers will have to spend some time experimenting with his starting line-up. Based on the few practice games the team has had in Hawaii where Rivers started Ivica Zubac, Moe Harkless, Rodney McGruder, Landry Shamet, and Patrick Beverley it seems logical to assume that the starters when the season kicks-off will be Ivica Zubac, Moe Harkless, Kawhi Leonard, Landry Shamet, and Patrick Beverley. But again, that’s what the pre-season is for.
Rivers has said he intends to give playing time to lots of players because he has a lot of players on the roster right now. No better way to see who a stand-out player is than to let that player play. Who the starters will be is much less important than knowing who will finish games. For the Clippers, as the season progresses, that line-up seems set. Every Clipper opponent will likely match-up against Beverly, Lou Williams, Montezl Harrell, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the closing minutes. Until George returns that spot at the end of games will likely be taken by Harkless.
In the big scheme of things, this isn’t a huge decision. But, it is a decision that has to be made and will likely be determined as pre-season progresses. The next key observation/decision looming for the Clippers this pre-season is a bit more pressing.
2. The point guard position
This position starts with Patrick Beverly, but where does it go from there? At the start of the pre-season there is no other player on the team with any significant experience playing the point in the Association. Considering how important the position is, this could be a concern. On the plus side, the point guard is not exactly what it used to be decades ago where teams relied on that player to control pace, score and make the right pass at the right time. Few players at the position excel at all that in todays game.
Today the point guard position leans more on playing smart basketball. There is no expectation that a quality PG score, but they do have to make the right pass, control the pace of the game and be a coach on the floor. Beverly excels at those areas of the game and he is an aggressive, above-average defender so, again, the position starts with him. The backup PG is a bit of a mystery however. Rivers and others have called out the play of rookie Terance Mann who played point for the Clippers in the Summer League and looked good doing it. Mann has received time at the backup PG in practices and should see time at the position in the pre-season.
Another player who will play point in the pre-season is Landry Shamet. Shamet is known more for his shooting than ball handling skills, but that might change. In fact, Doc Rivers had this to say about the second year player.
“Landry [Shamet] will play point a lot this year,” Doc River said today after practice. “There’s no doubt about that because he can do a lot of things that very few guys can do — you know, a Curry. Like, he can push it up, throw it and run and still score. That’s pretty good.”
— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) October 3, 2019
Comparing any young player to any All-Star is dangerous. Ask Harold Minor who was cursed with the Mini-Jordan nickname. It’s likely that Rivers dropped that comparison to motivate Shamet who looks to be a very confident player not likely scared off by the comparison.
It is true that the Clippers had a great off-season. In addition to Kawhi Leonard they added Paul George. Just as important however is the fact that they were able to add those two pieces to a core that remains with the team into the 2019-20 season. That continuity means that the pre-season will be more about fine-tuning for the LAC than making big decisions. Of course, there are a few more things the team needs to determine, like is Zubac ready to make the jump to a quality starting center? Will Leonard and George mesh well with the core group? Can Shamet grow in his second season? But, those are concerns that will come into clearer focus in the regular season.
For now Clippers fans enjoy the games, such as they are. No matter how ragged the team may look, how haphazard the substitution patterns will be, how bad the referees calls are, its is real professional basketball. The wait is over!
Enjoy the game.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!