It’s a new day. The Steve Ballmer Era officially kicks off Thursday when the Clippers open the 2014-15 regular season at Staples Center against the Thunder.
At the pep rally where Ballmer was officially introduced as the new owner of the Clippers he mentioned the franchise, under his leadership, would be "hardcore" and he wanted "Larry" as in the Larry O’Brien trophy, awarded to the winner of the NBA Finals — something that hasn’t happened before in franchise history.
The journey begins this week. After facing Oklahoma City, the Clippers will be the visitors at Staples Center against the Lakers followed by a Sunday matinee at Staples against the Kings.
For what it’s worth, Blake Griffin led the NBA in scoring during the preseason averaging 23.4 points per game. The way he scored, however, is of major importance. Although it’s too soon to label him as a shooter, he has showed increased range and an improved jump shot during the preseason.
It was a rough preseason for Matt Barnes shooting the basketball. He was just 1-for-24 from beyond the arc. It shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. He connected on 34 percent of his three-point shots last season and is 33 percent for his career.
Player to watch
Blake Griffin finished third in NBA MVP voting last season behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. In the process he averaged a career high 24.1 points per game. He made incredible leaps last season but head coach Doc Rivers says he can do more. Rivers says Griffin can be an NBA All-Defensive player.
Stat to watch
Despite allowing just 44.1 percent shooting last season, which was fourth best in the NBA, the Clippers gave up 101 points per game, which was 14th in the league.
Year two of the Doc Rivers regime should see strides defensively and the Clippers will need it if they want to advance in the postseason.
All four teams that advanced to the conference finals were in the top 12 in points allowed last season. Three of those teams were in the top six.