The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Clippers tip off their 2012-13 campaigns on Wednesday in a rematch from last season's first-round playoff battle that went seven games.
The Clippers toppled the Grizzlies in the deciding seventh game in Memphis, but the Staples Center in Los Angeles will serve as the venue for both teams' opener to a new season.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin still anchor the Clippers, who added several veteran glue guys in the offseason in an effort to make the leap in the Western Conference. Last season, after they knocked off the Grizzlies, the Clippers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games of the Western Conference semifinals.
Paul could be in for a really amazing season, which is terrifying to consider since he finished third in MVP voting last season. He will be a free agent this summer and will get a lot of money from some team and the Clippers hope it's them.
Griffin was scheduled to play for Team USA at the London Olympics, but tore the medial meniscus in his left knee. The injury also came one day after he signed a five-year extension with the Clippers. Griffin is expected to be 100- percent for Wednesday's opener, and the season, but a second surgery to the same knee that caused him to miss the entire 2009-10 season is something to remember.
In an effort to get into the conversation with the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and their fellow Staples Center occupants, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers brought in several veteran glue guys.
Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Ronny Turiaf, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom were brought in to enhance the bench. Odom is back in Los Angeles where he thrived as a Laker in an attempt to forget about last season's disaster that was his Dallas Mavericks career. Barnes is suspended by the NBA for Wednesday's game after he plead nolo contendre in California state court to resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer in the discharge of his duties
The Grizzlies, despite the loss to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, stood relatively pat this offseason. Their big acquisition was Jerryd Bayless. He was brought in to replace O.J. Mayo, who bolted as a free agent to the Mavericks.
The starting five remains intact with the awesome front line of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley took strides toward being an elite point guard last season and Tony Allen is the best perimeter defender in the whole league.
It is curious that the Grizzlies didn't try and upgrade considering that two seasons ago, Memphis took the Thunder to a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals and last season they didn't live up to their potential.
"It's such a long season," said head coach Lionel Hollins. "Last year, our health wasn't as good as we would have liked it. We had a great season. There's a lot of expectations on us. It's not pressure, it's what's you want."
The Clippers won last season's regular-season series, 2-1, with both victories coming in Los Angeles. L.A. has won four of five against the Grizz.