After a complex and complicated lockout that threatened to take away the entire NBA season and a rather confusing past two weeks of trades, potential trades and signings, it was a refreshing and welcomed sight to watch the return of basketball and the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, even if it was only a pre-season game.
However, it was also refreshing and welcoming for another reason. The hallway rivalry between the Lakers and the Clippers seems to be renewed and more exiting than ever. Both teams have some new faces, have lost key players and have some of the same faces returning. After decades of pure dominance by the Lakers holding the supremacy of being the best team in Los Angeles, the Clippers may have finally acquired the talent to argue with this all-too-real theory.
With the addition of Chris Paul comes a expectation of fast-paced, thrilling basketball, or what many including Blake Griffin are calling “Lob City.” Excitement for this renewed rivalry is already high, with the performance of Monday night’s pre-season game adding fuel to that fire. While we need to remind ourselves that these first two match ups this week are pre-season games, if it’s a preview of what is to come not only in this season but the next couple of years, expectations should be met.
A lot of analysts and fans are already claiming that there has already been a changing of the guard and now the Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles. That statement is a bit premature since the regular season hasn’t even started yet. Both teams have drastically different rosters than last year and a with less than two week training camp, both teams have yet to find their groove yet.
As an ESPN L.A. reporter stated, “The truth is, success in this lockout-shortened season will have to do more with health and luck than anything else. The schedule is grueling. Sixty-six games in 120 days. Back-to-back-to-backs. Oh yeah, and a bunch of players who were expecting to be locked out until mid-January who had to rush back after Thanksgiving and hurriedly work themselves into shape.
It’s a recipe for chaos and confusion. Some say deeper teams have an advantage. Others suggest more experienced teams have the edge. The reality is no one knows which set of intangibles will matter most. Perhaps a young team with fresh legs such as the Clippers will benefit. Maybe an older, hungry team like the Lakers or Boston or San Antonio is better suited to sprint to the title.”*
This is a main point of concern for the Lakers. Their age will be an obstacle for finding chemistry with each other right off the bat. While the starting lineup is primarily the same for the Lakers, except for Matt Barnes replacing Metta World Peace, they are still in the learning stages of new head coach Mike Brown’s coaching philosophy.
Mike Brown’s decision to have Metta World Peace lead the bench will take some time for Metta to get used to. Metta looked a step behind everyone during Monday night’s preseason game. The bench will need the most work as far as chemistry and unity go. However, Josh McRoberts has already emerged as a crowd favorite and a much needed spark off the bench.
Sports need rivalries, whether it is the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers or the Clippers and the Lakers. Rivalries generate the ultimate thrill of the game: competition. With rivalries, there is a foundation of pure intensity before the players even take the court or field.
With excitement and high expectations building with speed in Los Angeles and around the NBA of this reborn rivalry, we won’t see true results until later in the season and perhaps by the end of next season. We do not know what trades are coming for the Lakers, perhaps the “big trade” that Mitch Kupchak referred to last week, or notably Dwight Howard. Until then, the building of the hallway rivalry between the Clippers and Lakers can only mean good things for the game of basketball and the fans in Los Angeles.
*Source: ESPNLA.com | Ramona Shelburne