About a week and a half ago, it seemed certain Chris Paul would play his home games at the Staples Center. Monday night at Staples Center, the NBA exhibition season opens between the two teams that traded for Paul. The Los Angeles Lakers, who had their trade with the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets denied by David Stern, are the home team Monday night against Paul and the new-look Los Angeles Clippers.
The Lakers and Clippers are paired up in the truncated NBA preseason, which every team playing a home-and-home with a predetermined opponent. In addition to Monday, these two teams will play Wednesday night as well, with the Clippers playing the role of home team in the second battle. Monday's 7:30 p.m. game will be available on television on Fox Sports West (the Lakers' broadcast) and Prime Ticket (the Clippers' broadcast) in the L.A. market, and on NBA TV for those outside of the area.
The Lakers, especially without Paul, still have the same point guard deficiency they have had in recent seasons, and on Monday their depth will be tested even further. Derek Fisher, who as President of the NBA Players Association spent the majority of his summer and fall dealing with the NBA lockout, might not play on Monday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.
In addition, with Metta World Peace set to come off the bench this season, head coach Mike Brown is still deciding whether Matt Barnes or second-year man Devin Ebanks will start at small forward. "I'm not sure. I'm going to give both those guys a look," Brown told McMenamin on Sunday. "They've both have been playing very well for us and they both deserve to play, so they're going to get an opportunity to continue getting looks."
As for the Clippers, they are working three new players into their starting lineup in Paul, amnesty pickup Chauncey Billups, and free agent signee Caron Butler. The team has only practiced together for two days, so rust could be an issue, but that's what preseason games are for. "We know as a team we have a lot of work to do on a daily basis," head coach Vinny Del Negro told Eric Patten of Clippers.com. "Today was basically our second practice and there are a lot of things we need to sew up quickly and you’ll see steady improvement throughout the year as we move forward here with this group."
Unfortunately this season there are only two preseason games to work out the kinks. But after waiting out the long NBA lockout, it will be great to see basketball being played on the court again.