A few quick observations, though:
Opener: Wednesday, October 30th — at San Antonio
Home Opener: Friday, November 1st — vs. Detroit
Rudy Gay Return: Wednesday, November 13th
MLK Day: Monday, January 20th — vs. New Orleans
Miami game: Wednesday, April 9th
Four-game West Coast trip: November 15-20
Four-game homestand: January 7-14
Five-game West road trip: March 26-April 2
Six-game homestand: November 30-December 11
National Television Games:
Friday, November 22nd — vs. San Antonio (ESPN)
Thursday, December 26th — at Houston (TNT)
Friday, March 7th — at Chicago (ESPN)
Wednesday, March 26th — at Utah (ESPN)
Friday, April 4th — vs. Denver (ESPN)
Wednesday, April 9th — vs. Miami (ESPN)
With the free agency period all but over, here' s my early read on how the Western conference's now-crowded elite will finish in 2013-2014. These prognostications are for the regular season only, and are subject to change when the leaves do the same.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Last Season: 58-24, #7 offense, #3 defense
The Case: Was last season a last hurrah? Why should it be? Tony Parker is still in his prime. Kawhi Leonard is emerging as a true two-way star. Danny Green and Tiago Splitter are plus-size role players still on the upswing. And Gregg Popovich still manages his regular-season rotation with the big picture in mind, while still piling up wins, better than any coach in the league. And this is still as balanced, versatile, and battle-tested a roster as any in the conference.
The Caveats: The Spurs aren't actually that old anymore, but age is a question mark with two core contributors. Can Tim Duncan, at age 37, really have another All-NBA season? Can Manu Ginobili, at 35, stave off what seemed to be a swift decline this past spring to remain a quality sixth man if no longer a third “star”?
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Last Season: 56-26, #4 offense, #9 defense
The Case: The Chris Paul/Blake Griffin fulcrum of last year's 56-win team returns, now with a major upgrade on the sideline (Doc Rivers) and an improved two-way wing combo in JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. A decent bet to field the NBA's best offense this season.
The Caveats: The Clippers have not yet addressed their issues of frontcourt depth, toughness, and gravitas, with the callow starting combo of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan currently backed by finesse centers Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens and undersized swingman Matt Barnes. How much will this hurt in the regular season? Probably not too much, thus this placement. But it's the reason the Clippers' post-season hopes come with an asterisk until further notice.