Lakers Still ‘Kings’ Of L.A. Despite Clippers Increasing Improvement
The most intriguing part of this Hollywood-infused storyline surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ early season struggles would have to be the notion of the Los Angeles Clippers somehow being able to wrestle the attention and NBA-loving hearts of the city away from their building (NBA) co-tenants. It’s difficult to tell whether this is more of a media-induced story, or if the overwhelming groundswell of support is primarily coming from new found Clippers fans partnering up with a few eternally heartbroken/diehard Clippers fans such as “Clipper Darrell”, Penny Marshall, and the like.
I volunteered at an event to raise Parkinson’s awareness (Knock Out Parkinson’s) over the weekend, and the host of the event (Maryum Ali) even made a joke about the Lakers losing that she admittedly has been making about the Clippers for the past decade. I also host a weekly internet radio show (Triple Threat Podcast), and have already received several calls from Clippers fans with the audacity of wanting to kick dirt on the heads of the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m not predicting the apocalypse, but I will tell you something is definitely in the water.
Look, I’m not a complete and total Lakers homer, as I can acknowledge the definite improvements the Clippers have made. Obviously, the drafting of Blake Griffin has worked out very favorably, and the addition of Chris Paul will make just about any team into an instant playoff contender. Most significantly, the Clippers have really seemed to spin the blue collar ‘us against the world’ mentality in their favor over the past few seasons. So, I want to be clear in offering true credit where it is due. The Clippers are no longer your grandmother’s cute little team that simply plays around in a building matinee before the men take the floor during primetime hours.
That said, Los Angeles is accustomed to greatness. This is a town that might love a feel-good story about triumph and overcoming adversity, but appreciates dominance and dedication toward maintaining the highest level of basketball excellence even more. That, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of 35 years, is precisely what the Lakers (under Buss) have provided for a town so hungry for star-power. It is a fact that Jerry Buss knows, and one Jim (Buss) is hopefully learning. It is something GM Mitch Kupchak has lived by since even his days as an assistant to the all-time great Jerry West. It is something that all of Lakers Nation is certainly accustomed to, which is precisely why Los Angeles (for the foreseeable future) will remain a town overwhelmingly pro-Lakers.
Don’t get me wrong, Clippers fans…this is without a doubt your most rewarding time as a fan of the franchise, whether you just joined the ride or have been with the team since the days of the Sports Arena (or San Diego). I, for one, have been a loyal supporter of the Purple and Gold since the days of the Fabulous Forum. I’ve been actively going to games since the Great Western days, and still prefer the cross-town feel we once had. That way, the lines cannot be blurred, and you don’t have Clippers fans being confused by the fact that both teams happen to play in the same building. Simply because I acknowledge the on-court battle as a rivalry does not mean the two franchises mirror or compare by any stretch of the imagination.
That is also part of why I can say, with certainty, that even with the questions naturally raised by a 1-4 start which resulted in your head coach getting fired (4-1 since) with a questionable hire to follow, the Lakers will be able to turn this around. Whether I’m comfortable with the decision to hire D’Antoni over Jackson or not, the Lakers have proven time and time again they rarely make the same mistake twice in a row. A luxury, even the most ardent of Clippers supporters, would openly acknowledge they’ve never had.
While the Lakers are an organization that has reached the Finals in three consecutive years twice over the past decade (and change), the Clippers are a franchise that have never qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, outside of a stretch during the mid-70′s when they were the Buffalo Braves. Again, that isn’t intended as a disrespect, rather as merely some proper perspective and context on the matter. The Clippers have been a great story to start the season, but as the Lakers have proven year after year, it’s all in how you finish.