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Lakers-Clippers Preview

Lakers-Clippers Preview
The Los Angeles Lakers played 103 games between the regular season and the playoffs in 2007-08, then the team's two leading scorers spent the summer representing their respective countries in the Olympics.

After a blowout win in their home opener, they won't get any rest yet.

The Lakers will be visitors in their own home Wednesday at Staples Center against the new-look Los Angeles Clippers, who are hoping to have Los Angeles native Baron Davis healthy and in the lineup for his Clippers debut.

The Lakers (1-0) made it to the NBA finals last season before losing to Boston in six games, but that wasn't the end of the summer for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bryant led the United States to a gold-medal game victory over Gasol and Spain, adding eight more grueling games to a Los Angeles season that spanned 103 contests from late October until mid-June.

Bryant and Gasol didn't look fatigued in their season debut on Tuesday night, however. Bryant scored 23 and Gasol 15 as the Lakers blew out Portland 96-76 at Staples Center.

"We worked very hard defensively and we played together as a group," Gasol said. "We just had so many weapons to use and we had that talent that we need to win."

The Lakers also enjoyed the return of center Andrew Bynum, who didn't play after mid-January last season due to a knee injury. Bynum scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds on Tuesday.

Bynum and the Lakers will be back on the court on Wednesday, this time as the visiting team in the season opener for the Clippers (23-59). There will be a number of new faces for the Clippers this season, and that process all began when power forward Elton Brand signed a five-year, $82 million deal with Philadelphia on July 9.

A day later, the Clippers tried to make up for the loss of their best player by signing a former All-Star from division rival Golden State. Davis, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to UCLA, signed a five-year, $65 million deal to give the Clippers a playmaker at point guard they've long been lacking. The Clippers used seven point guards last season.

"He's going to make it easier for everybody else," said second-year forward Al Thornton, who averaged 12.7 points last season. "We know Baron can score and create his own shot. But Baron is going to create easy shots for everybody and he's going to do his thing, as far as scoring the ball. Maybe now I'll be able to get some easy buckets. Last year I had to work for everything."

The Clippers can only hope Davis and the new supporting cast can have better luck against the Lakers than last year's team did. The Lakers won all four meetings with the Clippers last season by an average of 26.0 points.

Davis averaged 22.5 points against the Lakers in four games in 2007-08.

In all, the Clippers have nine players who played elsewhere last season. Leading scorer Corey Maggette left for Golden State, but in an effort to replace Brand's big body up front, the Clippers traded for former defensive player of the year Marcus Camby.

The problem with the two most significant acquisitions - Davis and Camby - has been keeping them on the floor. Davis played one preseason game due to an injured finger, and Camby didn't play at all because of a bruised right heel. Coach Mike Dunleavy is optimistic Davis will play against the Lakers, but Camby is almost certain to sit out.

"It's been tough from the standpoint of a little bit of the chemistry, guys playing together," Dunleavy said. "There's nothing we can do about it. The young guys have gotten a chance to learn about playing in the NBA."

One of those young guys is first-round draft pick Eric Gordon. The shooting guard, who averaged 20.9 points as a freshman at Indiana to lead the Big Ten in scoring, averaged 14.6 points in the preseason to lead the Clippers. He's just one of the reasons Davis feels like this could be a much improved Clipper team.

"It comes down to trust and sacrifice and hard work," he said. "With the amount of talent we have, we should be a pretty good team. The potential is great, definitely playoff-potential type of team."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 29, 2008


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