The best of the best have suited up in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey, from Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain to Kobe Bryant and Shaq.
Currently, there are 16 NBA championship banners hanging from the roof of the Staples Center and they all belong to the Lakers. The Lakers are a vital part of the cultural and history of Los Angeles and have been one of the most successful franchises in sports for decades.
Lately though, things have started to change. The Lakers have had some competition from the other Los Angeles basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
When Blake Griffin was drafted to the Clippers, it was the christening of the ship. When Chris Paul was traded from the New Orleans Hornets, things started to get serious. They had spent the money to keep DeAndre Jordan from going to the Golden State Warriors and now Chris Paul?
This is a team that the Toronto Raptors commentators used to make fun of.
Still through, the Clippers don’t touch the Lakers Empire. The Lakers spend roughly $70 million dollars more than the Clippers do on committed salaries.
The off-season has witnessed the Lakers sign Steve Nash, add Antawn Jamison and re-sign Jordan Hill, while still pursuing Center Dwight Howard more aggressively than any other team.
The Clippers have not done anything comparable thus far. Chauncey Billups is expected to be healthy and new Clipper, Jamal Crawford is certainly an above average Guard. Griffin signed a contract extension. Paul didn’t. The Lakers improved they’re starting line-up, the Clippers their bench.
The most important name that the Clippers brought to the Staples Center is Lamar Odom, the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks seconds. Although, apparently things are looking up for Odom, it’s questionable. He forfeited the 2012 London Olympics to train for the regular season but the Olympics would be an opening to train with the best in the world. There is only one logical reason he opted out of the Olympics, unless he needed the time to make another unisex perfume, he didn’t want to face the embarrassment of not making the team.
Nevertheless, The Clippers aren’t an embarrassment or a joke anymore. They went from being lumped in with teams that almost never make the playoffs like the Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers to a team that is expected to make it through the first round of the playoffs at the very least. They are a legitimate contender and challenger to the Lakers.
Paul and Nash are definitely pretty evenly ranked Point Guards. Hoopdata.com ranks Nash second in the legend and Paul third. Paul puts in more minutes on the court, normally playing the entire game, while Nash averages about 30 minutes. Paul is in his prime while Nash is nearing the end of his career. Paul is an aggressive defender, Nash a weaker one.
Even with Billups back in the line up, he’s not a match for Kobe. Black Mamba has shown no sign of decline yet. His career averages are 25.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.7 APG and 1.2 SPG, while Bryant’s 2011-2012 seasons are 27.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.6 APG and 1.2 SPG. He was second to Kevin Durant for points during regular season play.
Metta World Peace always plays hard even though he is one of the lesser talented Lakers. Whoever the Clippers start at Small Forward (Caron Butler?) will need something special to match Metta. And – it’s Metta so no one really knows what is going to happen there.
Pau Gasol and Griffin are pretty much even right now but long-term, Griffin will dominate. Andrew Bynum has the advantage over DeAndre. However, the Clippers Center is underrated in regular season. He is fourth in the legend for blocks per game and overall sits somewhere just above the top ten Centers in the NBA. If Howard gets added into the mix then DeAndre and Griffin are going to have problems.
Griffin, DeAndre and Paul are just going to improve, while Nash is on the decline and Kobe is at his peak.
At this rate, the Clippers banner is upon the horizon, but to get it, they must win the battle of Los Angeles.
All Stats from ESPN.com, unless cited otherwise.