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NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 27th (All times eastern)
Portland Trail Blazers (1-0) at Los Angeles Clippers (0-0), 10:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers will get the 2010-11 season underway this evening, as they host the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
Known for decades as perennial NBA doormats, the Clippers actually have a chance to avoid the NBA Lottery and finish with a .500 record this upcoming season. They may not qualify the playoffs in 2010-11, but have enough talent, especially inside, to make a push in the Western Conference. Fans of the "other" team in Los Angeles have been witnesses to an underachieving club that brought in Vinny Del Negro as head coach and cleaned house in upper management.
Wealthy owner Donald Sterling has deep pockets and failed to use nearly $20 million in cap space during the free agent period. The Clippers flirted with the idea of luring LeBron James to the City of Angels before the superstar took his talents to South Beach, and ended up landing a handful of role players. Maybe the organization feels confident that a healthy return of Griffin is enough to get the team back to a respectable image.
Griffin, of course, suffered a broken kneecap during the preseason a year ago and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft never saw the floor for the remainder of the season. But the Oklahoma standout has worked tirelessly to get himself back into playing shape and has tremendous expectations to meet this season. Having a healthy Griffin team up with All-Star center Chris Kaman gives Del Negro several options to work with inside. He averaged a team-best and career-high 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game a season ago.
Clippers talented guard Eric Gordon hopes his success in the FIBA World Championships this summer will lead to an even better 2010-11 campaign. He earned the praise of Duke legend and Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski for his hard work and consistency for the gold-medal-winning team. Gordon improved on his defense under Coach K and is a good candidate for team MVP this season.
Baron Davis has been bothered by both knee and calf injuries this season, and hopes to get back to his once-dominant days as a Hornet. The slick-dribbling Davis isn't getting any younger and can serve as a mentor to the younger guys on the roster simply with his experience. His work ethic has come into question and Davis said last month he wants to drop a few more pounds to get to his desired playing weight.
The weight of losing seasons may finally get lifted for the Clippers, who have finished with a .500 record or better only three times since the 1991-92 season and haven't reached the postseason since 2005-06.
Portland kicked off its season with last night's 106-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. A 31-11 advantage in the fourth quarter was the difference and Brandon Roy led the way with 24 points and six assists.
Nicolas Batum recorded 19 points and 11 rebounds, and scored 11 points during an 18-1 run in the fourth quarter. Marcus Camby showed his still has something left in the tank and ended with 13 points and 10 boards for the Blazers, who had a 48-30 edge in rebounding and lost to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last season.
"I thought our guys tonight, we played the game we wanted to play," Blazers head coach Nate McMillan said. "We stopped turning the ball over and got some penetration."
McMillan's Blazers went 3-1 against the Clippers in the regular season a year ago and have won nine of the last 11 meetings between the teams.
10/27 10:44:25 ET
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