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Ball expected back to lead Lakers vs. Clippers in opener

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers didn't reach the playoffs the past four seasons and haven't won a playoff game since May 18, 2012, but the organization is hoping that will change now that Lonzo Ball is running the offense.

Ball will get his first opportunity to begin the turnaround when the Lakers open the season against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night at Staples Center.

Ball, the No. 2 overall draft pick out of UCLA in June, sat out the last four preseason games after rolling his ankle against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 2. However, he said he would be ready for the opener.

"I'm playing for sure," Ball told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

Ball is one of six new players on the Lakers' roster, joining centers Brook Lopez and Thomas Bryant, power forward Kyle Kuzma and shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart.

The Clippers will also have a new face at point guard after Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets in the offseason. Patrick Beverley came to the Clippers as part of the trade, and he will try to fill Paul's shoes -- though Beverley also missed a big chunk of the preseason with a sore knee.

The Clippers will rely on power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan more than ever now that Paul is gone.

Griffin battled injuries the past three seasons, and he hasn't played 80 games since 2013-14, when he averaged a career-best 24.1 points. Griffin, 28, is also coming off a season in which he shot a career-low 49.3 percent.

Jordan should also be in the prime of his career at age 29, and he is coming off a season in which he averaged 12.7 points and 13.8 rebounds. He averaged double digits in points and rebounds the past four seasons, and he led the NBA in field-goal percentage the past five.

The other opening-night newcomers for the Clippers are center Willie Reed, power forward Montrezl Harrell, small forwards Sam Dekker and Danilo Gallinari, shooting guards Sindarius Thornwell and Lou Williams and point guard Milos Teodosic.

Despite all the new faces, Griffin said the Clippers are not transitioning from a team that couldn't get the past the second round the past six seasons to a team that's back in rebuilding mode.

"We have good players," Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. "To me, transition makes it seem like it's a rebuilding year or something like that. We'd be rebuilding if we had done something. We really haven't done anything over the past five, six years. It's a different team, a different look. But I don't know about transitional."

Austin Rivers is expected to move into a permanent starting role at shooting guard in place of J.J. Redick, who signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason.

The Clippers hope Williams can be the first player off the bench and fill some of the void left behind by Jamal Crawford, the only three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Crawford signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves after spending the past five seasons with the Clippers, where he won two of his Sixth Man awards.

Updated October 19, 2017

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