There could be a changing of the guard when the Clippers open the season Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Arena.
Barring injury, third-year point guard Shaun Livingston is expected to start ahead of Sam Cassell, who is beginning his 14th season.
Although Cassell was slowed because of a strained left calf in the exhibition season, the move would be based on Livingston’s strong play to this point.
Livingston has been the Clippers’ point guard of the future since he was selected out of high school with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft, and it appears the future has arrived.
“Shaun has been great,” All-Star power forward Elton Brand said Sunday after practice. “His passing, the way he’s running the team, his post-up game ... he’s just exuding that confidence every day.”
Cassell played in only three of eight exhibition games because of his calf injury, and the team training staff might instruct Coach Mike Dunleavy to limit Cassell’s minutes in the opener.
With Cassell sidelined last season because of an injury, Livingston started and had 12 points and 13 assists with one turnover and seven rebounds in a 119-105 victory over the Suns. Livingston also led the team’s strong effort on defense.
“I haven’t decided what our starting lineup is going to be against Phoenix,” Dunleavy said. “But I’m comfortable playing Shaun any amount of minutes.”
Center Chris Kaman expressed relief his contract situation was resolved Friday when he signed a five-year, $52-million extension.
“This is where I’ve always wanted to be, so I’m just glad it’s done and I can focus on the season,” said Kaman, who was slowed because of a strained left hamstring in the exhibition season. “I’m definitely happy about it.”
Kaman is among the keys to the Clippers’ goal of winning a championship, General Manager Elgin Baylor said.
“You need a player like Kaman,” said Baylor, who drafted Kaman. “He’s young, he’s only 24 years old, and he’s getting better and better.”
Coaches and players attended a party for season-ticket holders Sunday night at Universal Studios.
They signed autographs for fans at the theme park, which was closed to the public for the team’s fan-appreciation event.
“Fan-appreciation nights are very important,” Brand said. “The fans support us, they help drive us to win, and that atmosphere at Staples Center is really important. Having them there really makes a difference.”
The Clippers rank first in the NBA in new season tickets sold and are among the top teams in renewals and total season tickets, according to the league.