Is the Staples Center still under the ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers or have we finally seen a shift in the power within the city, one where the Los Angeles Clippers and their flying Lob City highlight reel plays become the Hollywood standard for the casual NBA fan? The past clearly belonged to the Lakers with the faces of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal raising banners consistently in the city of lights. However, just as with the explosions and flash that dominate Hollywood, the Clippers’ possession of youth and excitement, the NBA’s Hollywood equivalent to “Pacific Rim” and “Inception”, have the potential to make the future of Los Angeles one of red and white instead of Laker gold.
On Tuesday night, the Clippers and Lakers meet for the first time this season, one that will signify the shift of fortunes for both teams. With the Lakers, uncertainty hangs like a dark cloud with each passing moment that the Kobe Bryant Achilles injury, the age of the roster and commonality of marginal NBA talent reside on the roster. For the Clippers the offseason saw their coaching and outside shooting, two Achilles weaknesses in the past two disappointing seasons, shored up through the acquisitions of Doc Rivers, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, and Antawn Jamison. There might not be certainty in the sport of basketball outside of the consistency of the San Antonio Spurs, the mediocrity of the Charlotte Bobcats and the facial hair of James Harden, but there is some in where these two teams go in the near future.
In regards to the Lakers, the story of the season is one of patience and superficial success as they slowly plan the construction of the next dynasty to to graze the Showtime nickname. Although the perseverance of Bryant to combat any ailment throughout his career guarantees his return at some point this season, the Black Mamba is simply not a player that can elevate a franchise into a contender at this point in his career. Likewise, the aging Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have seen their best days pass, and while both, especially Gasol, are very effective and prolific players when healthy and motivated, they are simply nothing more than complementary pieces without a proper star to shine beside. Lastly, Mike D’Antoni completes the imperfect puzzle as he brings his running style into full effect this upcoming season with the young legs of Shawne Williams and Nick Young among others into significant roles, a style that has yet to graze the league with the kind of success that the tried-and-true defensively geared teams have put into effect all through NBA history.
As for the Clippers, any conversation involving the upcoming year begins and ends at one and only one goal of championship glory. With the addition of one of the better coaches in the league in Rivers, one with his share of big game playoff experience behind the bench, along with expected improvement among Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, anything sort of at least an NBA Finals appearance would be seen as a catastrophe. In a league run by the perimeter stars and young athletic legs, the Clippers just might possess some of the best in both areas.
With the expected absence of Bryant, the Lakers will undoubtedly attempt to try to play a prototypical unselfish style tomorrow night, one with Gasol alternating between operating in a Marc Gasol high post offensive center piece role and one on the blocks when he so chooses. With Nash hobbled and the roster lacking the preferred experience one would like to have with a roster about to take on a gelled group such as the Clippers, the Lakers just might be over their heads at this point in the season.
We might witness the beginning of many storylines when the Lakers and Clippers tip off at Staples Center. It may be the prolonged absence of Bryant, the breaking ground of Chris Paul‘s MVP campaign, the leap of Griffin into a potential superstar or the re-emergence of Gasol into one of the most talented big men in the NBA. At the end of the day, these are all uncertainties that might be built toward, but what is set in stone is that the two franchises are about to embark into two very different paths in the not-too-distant future.