LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers had hoped to have a new owner in place by the time the 2014-15 season rolled around. If they did not, there were the looming threats of players boycotting and perhaps the resignation of head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers.
Those threats and the dark cloud of Donald Sterling’s ownership died on Tuesday when Steve Ballmer’s record $2 billion purchase of the Clippers was finalized and approved by the NBA. A day later, Ballmer was given his first schedule as an NBA owner when the league’s schedule was released.
Here are the 10 most intriguing matchups on the Clippers’ schedule for the upcoming season.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Clippers, Oct. 30: The Clippers’ season will begin much like it ended over five months ago -- at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Back then then the Clippers lost Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals and were eliminated from the playoffs, once again failing to get past the second round. If the Clippers are to get past the second round, not to mention past the conference finals and to the NBA Finals, the Clippers know they’ll have to find a way to get past OKC.
Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 31: Halloween Night will be the season’s first game of the “Hallway Series” with the Lakers playing host to the Clippers in the arena they both call home. The Lakers, needless to say, have dominated the series historically but the Clipper manhandled the Lakers last season after dropping the season opener to them. The Clippers beat the Lakers in their last three meetings by an average of over 35 points per game.
Golden State Warriors at Clippers, Dec. 25: For the second straight season and third time in the last four years the Clippers will play the Warriors on Christmas Night, but for the first time it will be in Los Angeles. Last season’s first round seven-game series between the Clippers and Warriors showed how intense this rivalry has become and if history is any indication this one won’t end without a skirmish or two.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Clippers, Jan. 16: LeBron James and the new-look Cavaliers will play the Clippers for the first time on the second night of a Cleveland back-to-back in L.A. Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul have developed a little rivalry at the point guard position as have Kevin Love and Blake Griffin at the power forward position, but the focus on this night will be on King James being on center stage in Hollywood.
New York Knicks at Clippers, Dec. 31: While the spotlight is usually on New York on New Year’s Eve, arguably the best show of the night will be in Los Angeles as Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony make their first trip to Los Angeles this season to play the Clippers with Lakers fans watching the Knicks’ trio, wondering what could have been.
San Antonio Spurs at Clippers, Nov. 10: The defending champion Spurs make their first trip to Los Angeles to play the Clippers early in the season. If the Clippers are to get over their second-round hump and become the team to beat in the West the Clippers will have to find a way to beat the gold standard of the conference for the past 15 seasons in the Spurs.
Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies, Nov. 23: Perhaps the biggest rival the Clippers have after playing them twice in the playoffs is the Grizzlies. The Clippers’ first game against the Grizzlies will take place in Memphis in the midst of a seven-game, 10-day road trip in November during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Clippers at Boston Celtics, Mar. 29: Doc Rivers already had his return trip to Boston last season after leaving the Celtics to become the Clippers’ coach but his last trip was so emotional, pushing him to tears before and after the game that any trip Rivers makes to his old home should be circled on the calendar.
Chicago Bulls at Clippers, Nov. 17: Outside of Cleveland, Chicago is the popular pick to come out of the East and play in the NBA Finals. The Clippers will get their first look at the Bulls in November as Pau Gasol makes his first trip back to Los Angeles since leaving the Lakers in the offseason.
Clippers at Phoenix Suns, Apr. 14: The Clippers will close out the season in Phoenix against the Suns. The nationally televised game could still help decide the Clippers' seeding in the playoffs and perhaps even the fate of the division. A big reason the Clippers have yet to make it out of the second round is they have never had home court advantage after the first round. That would change this season if the Clippers finish with one of the top two records in the conference.