Morning Shootaround: New Season’s Eve

 Chris Paul hopes to lead Clippers out of Lakers' shadow
Clippers vs. Lakers, 10:30 p.m./TNT

Chris Paul has been a Clipper now for two full seasons (well, one was a lockout-shortened season). He has transformed the franchise into legitimate contender. The Clippers have won a Playoff series and made back-to-back Playoffs for the first time since moving to Los Angeles. He re-signed with the Clippers this summer and attracted Doc Rivers away from the Celtics and to the West Coast.

These are not your father's, brother's or uncle's Clippers. This is a team hungry to win and win now.

Nothing short of that will matter, Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times seems to suggest. That seems to be why the Clippers made the controversial decision to cover up the Lakers' championship banners inside the shared Staples Center. The Clippers are making their stake on the Los Angeles basketball market and their claim on winning the championship.

Call them the dark horses among the media to sneak into the Finals and win the whole thing.

It will be extremely tough for the Clippers to displace the Lakers as THE team in Los Angeles. Just about everyone agrees on that. Maybe a first championship in Clippers blue will do that. So too would a win in the season opener Tuesday.

LeBron loved quieting Celtics, fans
Bulls vs. Heat, 8 p.m./TNT

LeBron James has not been afraid to lob bullets at his former antagonists from the Celtics, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They might be wearing new colors this year but the rivalry will not transfer. James told David Aldridge of the wars with the Celtics were different because he was not just battling the team, but also the fans and the city. And he truly enjoyed quieting them as he did on more than one occasion.

Al Jefferson questionable for Wednesday opener

The Bobcats were finally happy to get a free agent to join their cause. Al Jefferson is not a transformational player, but he is a very good one and should make Charlotte competitive more often than not. Unfortunately, Jefferson might miss the team's opener, leaving us to think about the good old Bobcats. Jefferson is questionable with a sprained right ankle for Wednesay's game in Houston, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Jefferson remains hopeful he will play. 

Danny Granger out three weeks
Magic vs. Pacers, 7 p.m.

Former All Star Danny Granger missed all but five games last season. Indiana will have to wait a little bit longer for his return. Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star reports Granger will miss another three weeks with a strained left calf. Granger calls the setback "no big deal" and it may not be for the Pacers who are favorites to compete for the East again.

Marcin Gortat eager to win in Washington

The Wizards made a big move to solidify their Playoff hopes when they traded Emeka Okafor for Marcin Gortat on Friday. Washington promptly waived the other players acquired in that trade. Gortat is very much the guy they wanted. And Gortat, after spending three years in Phoenix, is hungry to compete for a Playoff spot again.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily