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With Kings, Clippers, Lakers still playing, LA’s Staples Center prepares for unprecedented weekend

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Since it opened in October of 1999, the Staples Center in Los Angeles has had a good problem: It's home to three teams -- basketball's Lakers and Clippers, and hockey's Kings -- but only the Lakers are ever really all that competitive. In the last 13 years, the Kings have made the playoffs seven times, and the Clippers only twice; prior to this season, the two clubs had played past the first round just once each.

Springtime at the Staples Center tends to be a Laker-centric affair.

This year, however, things are different. For the first time in the history of the building, all three teams made the playoffs, and what's more, all three have advanced to the second round. (The Kings are in Round 3.)

And here's where things get especially tricky: Due to what Staples Center Senior Vice President and General Manager Lee Zeidman is describing as a perfect storm of scheduling, each of the three teams will be playing two playoff games in the building between May 17 and May 20.

The Staples Center staff will be facilitating six arena changeovers in four days.

"It's unprecedented in the history I believe of any arena," said Zeidman, "And I don't think it will ever be duplicated anywhere else but here."

Zeidman described (in Pacific time, the best kind of time) what will be a whirlwind of activity at the Staples Center.

Game 3 between the Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes is Thursday night at 6 pm. On Friday night, the Lakers host the Oklahoma Thunder.

That's all fairly standard, but the final horn in that game will also serve as a starter pistol for a truly crazy Saturday and Sunday, with doubleheaders on both days.

Immediately after the Lakers' game on Friday night, the Staples Center staff will convert for the Clippers/San Antonio Spurs game at 12:30 on Saturday afternoon.

"Then they'll be standing by," said Zeidman. It might be the last time they stand still. "Once that game is completed, we'll go ahead and convert to the Lakers/Oklahoma City 7:30 game."

It's worth noting that changing from one basketball team to another requires a floor transition that's really no easier than changing over to ice.

"The Lakers and the Clippers share nothing identical as it comes to their court situations," Zeidman said. "Their floors are completely different, so we've gotta strike one floor and bring in another floor; their courtside seating setup is completely different as is their scorers table -- that all has to be struck."

Plus, don't forget that people are slobs. You still have to tidy up the building.

"While we can convert the floors in about an hour, you've still got a million square feet you've got to clean and stock and that takes anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 hours," said Zeidman.

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But the hockey is still the big concern here. The Kings and the Coyotes drop the puck for Game 4 Sunday at noon, and the Clippers and Spurs go one more time Sunday night at 7:30. It's a tight schedule that could be made even tighter with an overtime game, a distinct possibility considering the way the Kings and Coyotes play.

"Never before in my experience here in this building, nor do I believe anywhere else, has there been a hockey playoff game scheduled prior to an NBA playoff game, for the very fact that we don't know when that hockey game would end," said Zeidman. "If that hockey game goes into one, two, or three overtimes, the start for that NBA game could be pushed back one, two, or three hours."

An overtime affair is a nightmare that the Staples Center has to prepare for. Prior to speaking to us, Zeidman held a conversation with the NBA and broadcast partner TNT to discuss the plan in the event of a long overtime. A quadruple overtime game could see the Clippers and Spurs tipping off as late as 10 p.m.

Zeidman pointed out that it's not just the changeover they need to worry about: it's the traffic going in and out of the building.

"We're gonna have 20,000 people in our building and another 20,000 people outside ready to come in, and we've gotta clean a million square feet, clean 168 suites, stock them with food and beverage as well as 53 concession stands."

Plus, for added complication, Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California bike race comes through Downtown L.A. Sunday morning. The streets will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with upwards of 100,000 people cramming into the area. To help ease the congestion, the Staples Center will be opening at 9 a.m. that morning and serving breakfast.

"This is going to be quite an undertaking," said Zeidman.

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney

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