Clippers to play preseason game in Seattle vs. Trail Blazers

Clippers guard Terance Mann defends against Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
The Clippers’ Terance Mann defends the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard during a game last season. The teams have agreed to play a preseason game in Seattle on Oct. 3.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Two longtime friends were looking at the calendar earlier this year while trying to figure out how they could hang out during busy work schedules that rarely left them in the same place.

Then, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and his Portland counterpart, Chauncey Billups, hit on on a solution.

Road trip.

The result is a preseason game Oct. 3 between the Clippers and Trail Blazers at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, a matchup that will be formally announced Wednesday in Seattle. The game will cap a week of preseason travel for the Clippers, who plan to begin their upcoming 2022-23 season in Los Angeles with media day Sept. 26 before traveling to Las Vegas and opening training camp the next day.

Both teams have ties to Seattle through their ownership groups. Steve Ballmer, the Clippers’ owner, lives nearby. Jody Allen, the Trail Blazers’ chair, has run the NFL’s Seahawks since the death of her brother, Paul Allen, in 2018. Yet Lue said the preseason destination derived from a conversation between him and Billups, who first met as teenagers at a basketball tournament and have been close for three decades.

“Me and Chaunce were talking about it, just basically being able to spend more time as best friends,” Lue said. “We were talking about Vegas, and then, I was like, yeah, I live in Vegas, so that’s perfect.


“And then he said: ‘Well, what about Seattle? Because it’s close for us and both of our owners are there.’ I was like, that’s cool too because I haven’t been to Seattle in a while.”

Former All-Star guard John Wall, last seen playing 14 months ago, reportedly plans to sign with the Clippers after Houston buys out his contract.

June 27, 2022

From there, the two worked up the idea within their respective organizations, with Lue asking Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ top basketball executive, and Gillian Zucker, the top business executive. Spending the entire length of training camp together wasn’t ultimately feasible, but a preseason game was.

During their NBA playing careers, Billups and Lue often worked out together during offseasons. Billups has credited strategy sessions hosted by Lue during the early weeks of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in 2020 as central to sparking his interest in coaching. When Lue was promoted to become the Clippers’ head coach in 2020, he hired Billups as an assistant, then championed his hire in Portland before last season.

It will mark the 10th consecutive year the Clippers have taken training camp on the road after stops in San Diego, Irvine, Las Vegas and Hawaii. When they visit Las Vegas again in late September to begin training camp — the team is attempting to schedule another preseason game while there as well — Lue said he would like to host Clippers players at his offseason house for a casual opportunity to bond away from basketball.

Yet ahead of a season in which the team has expectations of contending for its first NBA title behind a healthy Kawhi Leonard, who is returning from knee surgery, and Paul George, Lue wants to use camp to establish early what he called his “main message.”

While potential is one thing, “we got to prove it,” he said.

“I know Kawhi and PG coming back this year, we have a really good team,” Lue said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re going to win. We got to put the work in. We’ve got to be willing to work. That’s the main focus. Don’t think because Kawhi and PG and those guys are stepping on the floor that we’re automatically going to win a championship or go to the Finals or whatever.


“We’ve got to put the work in ... and it starts from the front office all the way to the coaching staff down to the players. I’ve told our coaches as well, we got to put in all the work we can, and then when you do that, you can live with the results.”

Seattle last hosted an NBA preseason game in 2018 at KeyArena, the longtime home of the Sonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 after the sale of the team. Since that 2018 preseason matchup between Golden State and Sacramento, the arena underwent a $1.15-billion renovation to be home to the WNBA’s Storm and NHL’s Kraken that kept its signature roof while digging out a new arena with a capacity of up to 18,100 beneath it. The redevelopment was led by Oak View Group, whose co-founder, Tim Leiweke, helped open the former Staples Center in 1999 as the longtime head of Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Into that new environment will step two friends who essentially spoke their preseason meetup into existence.

“We can be there for a couple days,” Lue said, “and at least hang out and see each other.”