Clippers’ final season in downtown Los Angeles begins out of the spotlight


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When the LA Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the 2019 offseason, the NBA responded by giving them a franchise-record 26 nationally televised games (ABC, TNT, ESPN) for the 2019-20 season. Those games included Week 1 bouts against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers at home and the defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors in the first game at Chase Center.

Based on this year’s schedule, the NBA has decided the Clippers are not going to be a featured team to begin the season. The Clippers will be off national television in Week 1 for the first time since 2018. Instead, the Clippers will open the season in Week 1 against three of the five Western Conference teams that missed the postseason.

The Portland Trail Blazers will visit the Clippers on Wednesday, Oct. 25. It will be the first time since 2018 that the Clippers will have their home opener on a Wednesday and the first time they will host the Trail Blazers in a home opener since 2010. The Clippers will play their first road game against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 27, 17 days after the two teams meet at Seattle in the preseason. And the Clippers will end Week 1 by hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 29.

The Clippers won’t be on national television until Week 2, when they “visit” the Lakers on Nov. 1 (ESPN). It will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Clippers, as they host the Orlando Magic the night before, and Russell Westbrook’s first game in front of Lakers fans since his departure in February. The only other time the Clippers are scheduled to be on ESPN or TNT between the first Lakers meeting and a Jan. 16 visit from the Oklahoma City Thunder (TNT) is when the Clippers visit the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Nov. 14 as part of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

Overall, the Clippers are only scheduled to be on national television for 12 games (six TNT, six ESPN). That’s down from 20 scheduled national television games last season and 15 scheduled national television games the year before when Leonard was out due to right knee surgery. But the opportunity for the Clippers to get off to a strong start will be there for a team seeking to re-establish its place among the best in the league.

LA will play 21 games by the end of the in-season tournament, which will conclude with a championship game Dec. 9 in Las Vegas; no NBA team will play on Dec. 10. Of the 19 known games for the Clippers to begin the season, nine are against teams that missed their conference’s Play-In Tournament last spring, and only six are against teams that won a playoff series. One of those six is against a Lakers team the Clippers have beaten 11 times in a row.

After having the most games in the league prior to the All-Star break each of the last three seasons (and seven of the last 22 seasons overall), the Clippers are only scheduled to play 53 games before the All-Star break in 2023-24. Last season, no team played fewer than 57 games before the All-Star break, with the Clippers tying the record for most games played before the All-Star break for the second year in a row with 61.

Here are some other notes, observations, and takeaways about the 2023-24 Clippers schedule:

Back-to-backs vs. rest games

The Clippers were 5-10 last season in games with zero days rest, and last season was the first time the team had zero stretches of five games in seven days. The Clippers will once again have 15 back-to-backs this season, and four of them will be a part of stretches in which the team will play five games in seven days. The first five-in-seven will be right after Thanksgiving (home against the New Orleans Pelicans, home against the Dallas Mavericks, home against the Denver Nuggets and a road back-to-back at Sacramento and Golden State). The second five-in-seven will be in April, bracketing the NCAA Final Four (home against the Nuggets and Jazz, home against the Cleveland Cavaliers and a home-and-home against the Phoenix Suns that begins on the road).

Perhaps a reason for Clippers apathy when it comes to scheduling is the questionable availability of Leonard on back-to-backs over the years. Leonard did play in both sets of LA’s final two back-to-backs last season, leaving optimism that Leonard’s participation in zero rest days could mirror the 2020-21 season, when the Clippers started 15-5. Leonard played in six of the team’s 11 games on zero days rest that season.

On the flip side, the Clippers will have at least 15 games of at least two days of rest. At least one of the post-group play In-Season Tournament games will come with at least two days off, and unless the Clippers make the championship game, they will get an additional game of at least two days rest off. The Clippers could stand to take better advantage of rest games, as they went 9-7 when off for at least two days last season, not including their season-ending Game 5 playoff loss at Phoenix.

Road trips and homestands

Last season, LA’s 15 Eastern Conference road games were neatly packed within three road trips: one in early December, one in late December and the season-long six-game Grammy trip that went from late January into early February. The Clippers were done with East road games by the trade deadline.

This season features more random travel. The Clippers have six road trips that include games against Eastern Conference teams this season. After four days off, the Clippers will visit the New York Knicks on the Monday before Election Day, then the Brooklyn Nets after Election Day. The team’s longest road trip again is the Grammy trip, and it’s a seven-game trek that starts at the end of January and wraps up in time for the Clippers to play a home game against the Pelicans the night before the expected trade deadline of Thursday, Feb. 8. The Grammy trip will feature Toronto, Boston, Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, Miami and Atlanta.

The Clippers will visit Indiana (Dec. 18), Milwaukee (March 4) and Chicago (March 14) in three separate road trips that will also involve Western Conference teams. The final multi-game road trip of the season will start in late March and feature Philadelphia, Orlando and Charlotte. It’s worth noting, since we’ve spent two months talking about James Harden, that the 76ers won’t visit the Clippers until March 24, three days before the Clippers go to Philadelphia; the 76ers are the final team the Clippers will face for the first time next season.

There are two instances in which the Clippers will have season-long four-game homestands. The first is from Dec. 11-16 (Trail Blazers, Kings, Warriors, Knicks). The second also begins in December, going from Dec. 23 to New Year’s Day (Celtics, Hornets, Grizzlies, Heat).

Time zones and matinees

The nadir for the Clippers last season was a six-game losing streak that stretched across four time zones around the turn of the new year: at Boston, at Indiana (Eastern), home vs. Heat (Pacific), at Denver (Mountain), at Minnesota (Central), home vs. Hawks (Pacific). The dreaded time zone stretch hits the Clippers early this season, as they play games at Brooklyn (Eastern), Dallas (Central), home against the Grizzlies (Pacific) and at Denver (Mountain) within a seven-day span — and the first full week after daylight saving time ends. On the flip side, the Clippers will spend the entire eight-game April schedule in the Pacific time zone, culminating with a regular-season finale against the Houston Rockets.

That Grizzlies game is the first of 11 matinee (afternoon start time) games the Clippers play this season, and the last regular-season home game in downtown Los Angeles is appropriately a matinee game as well. Only one of LA’s matinee games currently is a road game (March 3 at Minnesota). Last season, the Clippers went 7-5 in matinee games, not including the team’s Game 4 home loss against the Suns.

Odd teams

When the NBA released the In-Season Tournament schedule this week, it noted there will be 22 games scheduled for the 22 teams that fail to advance to the quarterfinals. The league mentioned there would be two interconference games scheduled between “bottom-finishing teams in group play subject to travel constraints.” That means flunking the In-Season Tournament in November could result in a third game (home or away) against a team from the opposite conference.

For the other 20 games that need to be scheduled, the league will have teams face opponents within the conference “that are otherwise scheduled to play each other three times over the course of the season wherever possible.” Normally, the league schedules each of a team’s four division opponents to play four games (two road, two home) each. That left 36 games against the other 10 teams in the conference; six of them would play the normal four-game regular-season series (two road, two home), while the other four opponents would meet only three times, with two playing only one road game and the other two playing only one home game.

This season, every team has two undetermined games on the schedule. But each team starts out with the standard 16 games against four divisional opponents and 30 interconference games, leaving 34 games to be split among the other 10 teams in a conference.

As of now, the Clippers have only one road game each at Utah (Oct. 27), Denver (Nov. 14) and Houston (March 6), and will only host the Spurs (Oct. 29), Mavericks (Nov. 25), and Thunder once (Jan. 16). If the Clippers do not make the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals, these are the teams the NBA will prefer to schedule against the Clippers to complete the Week 7 schedule. There’s always a chance the results of the tournament give the Clippers a fifth regular-season game against a Pacific Division opponent or the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Pelicans or Timberwolves.

Other dates to circle

  • The Clippers will not host a two-game miniseries this season but will visit San Antonio for a miniseries in November and Portland for a miniseries in March. The Warriors (November/December) and Suns (April) will also participate in a home-and-home with the Clippers this season.
  • The final Clippers-Lakers regular-season game will be Feb. 28, the last time the Clippers will host the Lakers in downtown Los Angeles. Three of the four Lakers-Clippers games this season will be on either TNT or ESPN.
  • The midpoint (41st game) of the season will be Jan. 21, when the Clippers host the Nets.
  • The first time the Clippers visit Phoenix will be Jan. 3, with the Suns visiting Los Angeles five days later. Eric Gordon was waived by the Clippers in June and signed with Phoenix.
  • In addition to Westbrook’s “return” game in November against the Lakers, the Clippers will host Reggie Jackson when the Nuggets visit on Nov. 27. Mason Plumlee will see the Hornets on Dec. 26 and return to Charlotte on March 31. KJ Martin will see his former Rockets team at home on Nov. 17 and visit Houston for the first time on March 6.

(Top photo of Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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