But after four straight trips to the playoffs -- a franchise first -- the Clippers still have yet to make it out of the second round. There is a sense this season will be different after the Clippers’ surprisingly productive offseason. They convinced DeAndre Jordan to change his mind and stay with the team, traded for Lance Stephenson, and signed Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Wesley Johnson, Cole Aldrich and Pablo Prigioni in free agency.
The Clippers will see how their revamped roster fares on opening night (Oct. 28) when they travel to Sacramento to play the Kings before opening their home slate the following night against the team Jordan almost signed with in free agency -- the Dallas Mavericks. Here are five interesting games and storylines that were revealed on Wednesday after the NBA released the 2015-16 schedule.
Jordan won’t wait long to play the Mavericks
The Clippers open the season in Sacramento, but most will view their second game of the season -- at home against the Mavericks -- as the real start of the 2015-16 campaign. Jordan had the most infamous offseason of any player after committing to play for Dallas before changing his mind nearly a week later when Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, Paul, Blake Griffin and Pierce came to his house in Houston and stayed until he re-signed with the team.
It was one of the strangest soap operas in the history of NBA free agency, and the emoji war it inspired made it one of the greatest days in NBA Twitter history. But Jordan’s decision has made him reviled in Dallas, and created some bad blood with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who never received a call from Jordan after he changed his mind, and Chandler Parsons, who personally recruited Jordan and felt betrayed by his decision.
“He wasn't ready to be a franchise player. He was scared,” Parsons said of Jordan’s decision at the time. “He was scared to take the next step in his career. There was no other reason other than that he was comfortable and he has friendships there.”
The Clippers play the Mavericks in Dallas on Nov. 11 and March 7.
“To be the man, you have to beat the man”
Before the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions last season, they were already the Clippers’ biggest rival. The Clippers beat them in seven games in the first round the previous season, and only the Clippers' epic collapse against Houston in the second round of the 2015 playoffs prevented a rematch in the Western Conference finals. Quite simply: The two teams don’t like each other, and if the Clippers want to prove they are legitimate contenders, they’re going to have to keep up with the rivals. They will get their first chance on Nov. 4 at Golden State before playing the Warriors at home on Nov. 19.
This Grammy trip sounds better
Last season, Rivers and several players on the team complained about the length of the team’s annual Grammy trip. The Clippers and Lakers, as well as the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, must vacate Staples Center in early February as the arena prepares to host the Grammy Awards. Staples Center is the only venue that houses two NBA teams and an NHL team, and that can create scheduling quirks. One of those quirks forced the Clippers to play 10 games in 10 different cities in 16 days. That won’t be the case in 2016, as the Clippers’ Grammy trip has them playing five road games in seven days. It’s not ideal, but at least they’re not on the road for two weeks.
Matt Barnes returns to L.A.
One of the more popular players on the Clippers, at least within the locker room, over the past three seasons was Barnes. He especially liked mixing it up with the “grit and grind” Memphis Grizzlies, and after an offseason in which he got shipped to Charlotte and then shipped to Memphis, Barnes will return to Los Angeles as a member of the Grizzlies. His first game against the Clippers is Nov. 9 at Staples Center, and Barnes has already posted he’s not going to take it easy on his old friend, Jordan.
“I told him, ‘Even though we’re good friends, I’m still going to foul the beep out of you when we play,'” Barnes said during his introductory news conference in Memphis. “That’s just the kind of player I am. There are no hard feelings.”
Home and away for the holidays
The Clippers technically have a road game on Christmas Day -- but luckily for them it’s against the Los Angeles Lakers, meaning they will be at home with their families and preparing for the game in their home locker room. The Clippers also have home games against the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans on the Wednesday and Friday that bookend Thanksgiving, and will be in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve, which is good or bad depending on how you feel about Bourbon Street.