The Clippers kick off their Home/Season Opener tonight at STAPLES Center. They also enjoyed a Home/Season Opener of a different nature – a championship one no less – in the same arena three weeks earlier.
With the Clippers having championship aspirations in 2014-15 the club saw first-hand what the celebratory moment could look like. And feel like.
That is because Doc Rivers had his team focused on the Kings….but not the Clippers’ NBA rivals from Northern California. All eyes were focused on the L.A. Kings as that franchise raised its 2014 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters in a special on-ice ceremony in front of a packed STAPLES Center.
In the sold out building sat Rivers and several of his players.
“I just said, 'Hey, guys, I've got a box to the Kings game and I think it'd be really cool'" if we went to the game, Rivers told the media before the hockey game. “…I just think it's always neat whenever you witness a parade.”
The parade in this case was on the ice and it also marked the final piece of a “trade” that Rivers and the Kings pulled off. Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler told the story during a radio interview.
“The (Clippers preseason) game was originally scheduled for October 8, and Kings President Luc Robitaille called Doc Rivers during the summer and said, ‘Is there any way you guys can move this game so we can have our national TV game on Wednesday night and give out of championship rings to our players?’
“Doc agreed to trade nights with the Kings, but said, ‘I want to have tickets to that game for my players. We want to see that presentation of the rings. That's something I want my guys to get used to, and get a sense of what it's like to have a ring ceremony, because we hope to have one next year ourselves.’”
For some of the Clippers, it was also their first NHL contest. Spencer Hawes and Reggie Bullock answered these questions during the game, and just moments after taking their photos with the iconic Stanley Cup for the first time.
How much do you know about hockey?
Spencer Hawes: “I am from Seattle and there is actually a lot of talk to try and bring a team to that city. I have been to games before but I like learning as much as I can about things as quickly as I can. I figured the Kings at STAPLES Center was a great way to do that.
You are obviously very tall as a 7-footer but have you ever laced up the skates before?
SH: I have actually played a lot of street hockey in the past. I could not get on the ice however.
As an NBA player, what are you seeing in terms of what an NHL player can do out on the ice?
SH: It is pretty incredible and it was really a special feeling to see a championship banner get unveiled. I was pretty lucky to get to see the same thing in Seattle with the Seahawks several weeks back. That is a cool moment and you get to see the fans share in the moment. It is not just the players. It is the entire organization and you see the pride everyone has.
What are your thoughts on the physicality of the game?
SH: It is one thing to watch the game from the suite but it is another thing to get down ice level. We sat in the front row for a while and that is a totally different vantage point for sure. They are on those skates out on the ice and they are so good and talented you sort of take it for granted but the movement on skates is awesome and they make it look so effortless.
Who on the Clippers would make a good hockey player and who would be the worst?
SH: Blake Griffin would be pretty good I think. I have seen him play soccer and just the way he kicked that ball around I think it would translate somewhat on skates. On the flip side I would make the worst hockey player. I will throw myself under the bus. With my height people might think I could be a goalie but I think I would need to add some pounds to cover the net.
Have you been to a hockey game before?
Reggie Bullock (RB): I really don’t have any type of background when it comes to hockey but this was a great experience. This was my first hockey game and I got to see that big banner. I liked that but I regret not being a little bit more prepared.
RB: Well I didn’t know it would be so cold. As you can see I am wearing short sleeves. I should have brought a jacket.
What are your thoughts on the game?
RB: It was fun to see the Kings compete against San Jose. That is a competitive sport. They were knocking each other over, guys were going to the penalty box. They were doing what they could do to help their team win. It is totally different than basketball as we have on tennis shoes.
Have you skated before?
RB: Well if I wanted to play hockey I am pretty sure I would need to learn how to skate. I like the fact that they compete so hard and I see why it is one of the more popular sports around the United States.
Who on the Clippers do you think would have the best chance to be a pro hockey player?
RB: I would say Blake Griffin. I chose him though not strictly due to his athleticism. It is athleticism and power but also I think he is very creative. I saw some of the skaters out there doing some crossover type of moves so maybe Chris Paul would have success if he tried to play hockey.
And who on your team would struggle out on the ice?
RB: That is a good question. I would say D.J. DeAndre Jordan would not make a good hockey player in my opinion.
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