If nothing else, the Los Angeles Clippers' Christmas night game against the Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will prepare basketball fans all over North America for a season in which we will all stay up way too late to watch Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get busy.
CP3's regular season Clippers debut comes on the road, at the raucous Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the fans turn out and turn it up no matter how bad their favorite team has been. There is little to suggest the Warriors will be a whole lot better in 2011-12, unless you believe the gospel Mark Jackson is preaching. Adding to the skepticism, star guard Stephen Curry turned his ankle on a Jimmer Fredette crossover on Tuesday, and his status seems to be up in the air for the opener.
The evolution of the Clippers will be something to behold this season, though if the preseason is any indication, the learning curve will be modest. Paul and Chauncey Billups have already reveled in throwing lobs to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan; Mo Williams has some experience doing just that from late last season. It also looks as if the team will be dangerous from long-range: CP3 and Billups are classic shooters, and Williams should be able to find plenty of open space on this club. If there's a question mark beyond fragility, it's whether the shallow frontcourt depth will be a problem. Rookie Trey Thompkins performed well in the preseason and could be a salve.
The Warriors need Curry healthy, Monta Ellis playing a good floor game in addition to scoring by the bucket and David Lee to have a strong bounce-back season after a rough 2010-11 that included a serious elbow infection caused by Wilson Chandler's apparent lack of concern for dental hygiene. Jackson has vowed to install a defensive mindset for a club that finished No. 26 in defense a year ago; we'll see how far Kwame Brown and increased minutes for Ekpe Udoh gets him.