Last Friday, the NBA released the 2018-2019 schedule. The Clippers start the season off with a brutally tough stretch of games that if not survived could put them in an early hole when it comes to playoff contention. Coupled with having the second most miles traveled for a team, the first ten games of the Clippers schedule is…less than favorable. The first ten games are:
- @ New Orleans
- @ Houston
- @ OKC
- @ Philly
- @ Orlando
Aside from Orlando, the Clippers aren’t favored in any of their initial ten contests. At the risk of sounding reactionary, this initial stretch of games will have a magnificent impact on the chances of the Clippers being one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference.
While the Western Conference is loaded with talent, and no schedule was going to necessarily be “easy”, having such a front loaded schedule in terms of difficulty makes the Clippers “soft rebuild” of a season that much harder. NBA odds have already given the team the 13th worst odds in the league to win the NBA championship at 20,000/1, ahead of the likes of the New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Getting early momentum for a team that is going to be learning it’s identity as it goes is crucial for a success full season, and any sputters along the way during this ten game stretch may reverberate into the rest of the season. Early tests against not only playoff but championship contenders will either jolt the team full of energy and confidence, or plunge them into the depths of self-doubt. Aside from the pure basketball oriented matchups, the battle of self-belief will be of utmost importance for the Clippers as soon as the season starts.
Photo: Jacob Gonzalez/Clippers Digital
Veteran players will no doubt see a lot of the floor to weather this early storm, Doc Rivers historically shys away from giving young players time in “major” games so fans might have to wait a little before seeing SGA and Jerome Robinson get significant minutes. In a vacuum this ideology makes sense: let the veteran players use their years of experience to at least keep each game competitive and not immediately look like a team that is tanking. If this works (at best lets say the Clips go…7-3 during this stretch), fantastic. But if the team is scraping by and ends this first run of games anywhere in the 4-6 or 3-7 range it will be hard for fans to not demand to see the young guys get a chance. Last year proved Doc Rivers can cobble together lineups that remain competitive despite injuries, the beginning of this season will determine how much faith he has in his rookies to get through a brutal initial run of games.
Management has been adamant that there won’t be any tanking this year, and most fans probably agree that is better than throwing young players to the lions in hopes of snagging the #1 overall pick. It is fantastic to have an organization committed to winning with what we have, but if the first ten games go the way Vegas thinks (spoiler: they think we go 1-9) the top brass will have tough questions to answer in terms of what the team can realistically get out of the season. You never want brutal patches of the season, but having one start on opening night is a different beast. The first ten games of the Clippers 2018-2019 campaign is their toughest stint of the entire year, if the team can come out .500 or better it will go a long way to sneaking into the Western Conference playoffs.
Featured Photo: Sporting News