The NBA put forth the next step towards the beginning of training camp when they officially released the 2017-18 schedule, revealing some of the highly anticipated match-ups of the year. The Los Angeles Lakers were among the most popular teams in the NBA, earning 35 national TV match-ups this season.
With Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr., the Lakers have a chance to take a prominent step back towards their winning ways.
Some early showdowns in the season include their opening night contest against the Los Angeles Clippers and also a Christmas clash at Staples Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Clarkson, now entering his fourth NBA season, addressed those two early games during an interview with Spectrum SportsNet. His first comments addressed the importance of the battle for Los Angeles, anticipating an exciting atmosphere and win for his team:
“It means a lot, especially for it to be the first game. Battle of L.A. is always a big game, so it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting to play in that game, get a win and have bragging rights.”
The Clippers had won 11 straight games against the Lakers entering the 2016-17 season, before the Lakers captured a 111-102 victory during their Christmas encounter. However, the Clippers have won three consecutive match-ups since then. They are a much different team now however, having lost All-Star Chris Paul, but adding the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams.
Meanwhile the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler, Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague have put the Timberwolves firmly into playoff contention. Clarkson also commented on the looming Christmas day matchup against Minnesota, stating they have put together a formidable roster:
“It’s going to be interesting. They put a lot of pieces on their team as well. They’re going to have a really good team, so definitely looking forward to that Christmas game as well and hopefully getting wins.”
Clarkson, set to run the offense off the bench, enters a crucial year in terms of development. Through three NBA seasons, the 25-year-old is averaging 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 33.4 percent from three-point range.
With the additions the Lakers have made, Clarkson will be relied upon to help carry the second unit. If he can build upon his success last year, he could very well contend for Sixth Man of the Year as Magic Johnson believes he should.