8 things to know for Clippers’ preseason opener vs. Nuggets

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Sep 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3), forward Blake Griffin (32), center DeAndre Jordan (6) and head coach Doc Rivers during media day at the Clipper Training Facility in Playa Vista. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA preseason is finally about to begin. Basketball is back and we have some Los Angeles Clippers games to enjoy as their new talent terrorizes opponents for the first time. As always, the wait over the summer for basketball fans has been far too long, but as the Clippers begin their six game preseason stint on Friday October 2, it’s time to rejoice.

There’s been plenty of exciting news coming out of Clippers training camp already, giving us indications as to what we can expect from certain players as well as an idea of just how well the new roster has begun gelling already. No matter how well camp has gone, though, the real time to further develop chemistry before the start of their 2015-16 campaign is in preseason.

So, as we look forward to the Clippers’ preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets as they host them at Staples Center (at 10:30 PM ET), it’s time to look over eight key things that you need to know for their first game of 2015-16. Whether it’s what to expect from a confident Paul Pierce or how many more lobs we’ll see, these are some things to watch out for against the Nuggets.

Let’s begin.

8: Wesley Johnson is most likely starting at small forward

Since the Clippers signed Wesley Johnson and Paul Pierce this summer, the question of who will start at small forward has been a key point of interest surrounding the team. Both players have something to offer in the starting role and there’s pros and cons to starting each player, but according to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, it seems that Doc Rivers may have chosen Johnson to get the nod for the preseason opener against the Nuggets.

It’s not that surprising, though, as we already heard a week ago that Doc was leaning towards starting Johnson. If that is the case, we can see how Johnson’s three point shooting (35.1 percent last year) and athletic defense fits into the starting lineup in the place of Matt Barnes. He certainly has the physical tools to excel at both ends of the floor in the Clippers’ fast paced roster, but whether or not it materializes into 18+ minutes per game is something we’ll have to wait and find out.

Furthermore, with Pierce coming off the bench, Doc will be able to use his minutes effectively by playing him at both small and power forward. It’s been happening already in training camp scrimmages and Doc has made it clear that he wants to use Pierce at the four, so you can expect to see it in action at times against the Nuggets.

7: Lance Stephenson (groin/hamstring tweak) is questionable to play

The minor injury is a month old, but it still might be wise for the Clippers to rest Lance Stephenson against the Nuggets. He’s still been participating in all of the team’s practices, though he has been limited more in the latter parts of sessions in order to rest ahead of the preseason.

Now, it seems that Stephenson’s groin injury (sustained a month ago) may cause enough mild discomfort at times for the Clippers to acknowledge that it’s only a preseason game, thus resting their new sixth man while they can makes far more sense.

It seems that may be what Doc will do, as Stephenson is questionable to play for Friday’s game. Ben Bolch reported the details, and the specific injury that Lance is dealing with is a pubic bone inflammation.

If Stephenson does stay on the bench against the Nuggets, the Jamal Crawford fans out there can enjoy the Clippers’ season beginning with the former Sixth Man of the Year seeing a big increase in minutes — at least for one game.

Next: Josh Smith might be used at center