Los Angeles will always be Laker Town for the simple fact that there have been 11 championship parades held in Tinseltown and more than a dozen banners and retired Lakers jerseys hang above Staples Center. However, the argument could be made that this offseason has been dominated by the other team in L.A.: the Clippers.
With the re-signing of All-Star Chris Paul and the acquisition of former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, NBA Futures odds are leaning heavily toward the young and hard-charging Clippers to have a better season in 2013-14 than the old and beaten-down Lakers.
Perception is oftentimes reality and right now the Clippers appear be standing on stable ground while the Lakers’ foundation is falling apart.
The Clippers landed one of only four current NBA coaches with a championship ring in Rivers, while the Lakers are stuck with the embattled Mike D’Antoni. The Clippers kept their superstar point guard in the fold, while the Lakers lost superstar center Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets without compensation. The Clippers play an exciting brand of basketball that resonate with fans, while the Lakers can’t seem to find an identity. The Clippers acquired snipers J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, former UCLA point guard Darren Collison, and re-signed forward Matt Barnes as a steady veteran off the bench. The best the Lakers could do in free agency was bring in often-injured center Chris Kaman and two journeymen guards in Jordan Farmar and Nick Young.
The Dwight Howard debacle was a devastating black eye to the Lakers. They tried like crazy to keep Howard, even erecting billboards across the Southland, and he still left town. It’s sad to see a once proud franchise like the Lakers basically get down on their knees and beg Dwight to stay. Lakers patriarch Dr. Jerry Buss must be rolling in his grave.
Howard just didn’t feel comfortable playing for the Lakers. You could see it in his eyes and his body language. He was miserable playing for D’Antoni and playing second fiddle to Kobe Bryant.
With the return of Paul, the Clippers could potential field a championship-caliber starting five that includes All-Star forward Blake Griffin, Dudley, Redick, center DeAndre Jordan, and supersub Jamal Crawford comes off the bench. Rivers is a significant upgrade over Vinny Del Negro, and Paul can’t wait to work with his new coach.
“I’m excited about the ups and downs, the highs, the lows of the season to ultimately to get to where we want to be at,” Paul told the Los Angeles Times.
Seeing Paul in Clippers colors must be killing the Lakers. Two years ago, the Lakers thought they had CP3 in the fold only to watch NBA Commissioner David Stern inexplicably put a kibosh on a reportedly deal that would have paired Paul with Bryant.
To say that the Lakers are in a state of flux is a vast understatement. Kobe is still recovering from a devastating Achilles tear, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol battled all sorts of injuries last season and Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) is reportedly on his way out via the amnesty clause. The team could potentially field an opening day starting lineup of Nash, Jodie Meeks, Young, Gasol, and Kaman. It’s not exactly box-office material for longtime season-ticket holders who continue to pay top dollar to attend games at Staples Center.
L.A. remains a popular destination for free agents, but it seems as though the pendulum has swung in the Clippers’ favor. Signing with the Clippers used to be a death sentence, an end to a basketball career. Nowadays, the Clippers look like gorgeous gal at the cool bar everyone is staring at while the Lakers have become a divorced diva sitting alone at the table waiting for a dry martini.