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LA Eclipse: Have the Clippers surpassed the Lakers as the basketball power in Los Angeles?

ANALYST
Feature
16 Jul 2019, 07:25 IST

 

The Clippers are finally emerging as a powerhouse in the Western Conference  
The Clippers are finally emerging as a powerhouse in the Western Conference  

Since the beginning of the NBA, when it comes to basketball in Los Angeles, the conversation and attention has always been centered around the Lakers.  

The Lakers originated as one of the founding teams in the league in 1946, and since then they have been one of the most successful and fan-favorite teams. They helped create one of the NBA’s oldest rivalries, hold the record for the second-most team championships at 16, and have showcased many of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball. Whenever there is media bustle in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance it’s regarding the purple and gold. 

For their Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers, their history since the league expansion of 1970 which birthed them has been filled with nothing but little boy treatment and the “other LA team” status.  

They did not have the privilege of a plethora of household name players to attract the up and coming generations of fans and make a splash in the Western Conference. Despite having an excellent, storied head coach and one of the best ownership groups in the NBA, there is yet to be a Clippers title banner hanging from the rafters. While looking like they have promise, it just always seems like there is one missing link that keeps the Clippers from reaching the top. 

The basketball following in Los Angeles has mostly shown love for the Lakers, regardless of what the records say. However, with the events of the last few months, and weeks especially, it looks like that could all be changing.  

The question of whether the LA Clippers are about to become the city’s basketball power has now come up, and all signs point to the answer being yes.  

Over the past several seasons, many experts and analysts have considered the Clippers a dead destination for free agents and have presumed that players interested in going to Los Angeles want to join the Lakers. To their complete shock, this year’s free agency proved them all wrong.  

While they may not have brought in a LeBron James or Anthony Davis type player, the Clippers did get the next best thing, if not the better.  

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They flew sneakily under the radar and were able to bring the NBA’s best defensive player and defending champion, Kawhi Leonard, on a max deal after it was deemed ridiculous that he would sign there over the Lakers. Leonard has proven he can compete with and outshine the likes of LeBron James and be a versatile championship leader in his years as a Spur and Raptor.  

In addition, in accordance with the request of their new signee, the Clippers went out and intelligently used draft stock to get Paul George to come from Oklahoma City and create a powerful duo.  

Unlike James and Davis who may have come to LA for other motives than just basketball and the allure of the Lakers franchise, the Clippers now have two hometown superstars of their own who want to be there as true Los Angelians and can shift the power in the West.  

Even with the acquisition of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the past two offseasons, all has not been well with the Lakers.  

LeBron James has been put under the spotlight for his behavior during rough stretches of last season
LeBron James has been put under the spotlight for his behavior during rough stretches of last season

The LeBron James experiment fell far from expectations with the team missing the playoffs again and James’ agent causing controversy with other players on the roster. Ownership and management have been caught up in a whirlwind of drama and have dangerously ripped apart the team’s roster and assets to acquire Anthony Davis. There is just too much pressure on James’ shoulders at his age and too many distractions for the Lakers to succeed in a competitive Western Conference. 

On the other hand, for the Clippers, there is a solid, consistent foundation upon which the team is supported and led. They have one of the richest owners in the NBA and one of the most successful and intelligent general managers who don’t mind spending the big dollars when it benefits the team but also know when it’s not worth it to risk a ton of assets on something big.  

The Clippers leadership has done an even more fantastic job of developing a group of young, talented players to support their previous and current stars and keeping them on the roster to strengthen the bench.

Shooting guard Landry Shamet and center Montrezl Harrell are two members of the supporting cast that helped attain a 48-34 record this past season and both have proven to be far from busts or misused assets. Additionally, let’s not forget the Clippers' biggest gem, the league’s best sixth man in Lou Williams.

To add to this, not only is the Lakers’ leadership—both staff and player—causing drama and taking high risks, they have been acting unprofessionally in the handling of their business.  

A few months ago, former President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson went onto ESPN’s debate show First Take and, although prodded to, unleashed the full details of everything surrounding his resignation while throwing massive amounts of blame on GM Rob Pelinka.  

During the regular season, although he is considered a leader by all of his teammates, LeBron James has been put under the spotlight for his behavior during rough stretches of the Lakers’ season.

On numerous occasions, James was seen hanging by himself towards the end of the team’s bench during timeouts instead of listening in to the coach’s game plan. Other times he has been seen in confrontations with the coaching staff and has made attempts to take over too much of the flow of the game.  

By having Kawhi Leonard on their roster as their featured guy and leader, the Clippers will not have to deal with these problems which will make them even more successful this season.  

Leonard - and the same could be said for Paul George to an extent - knows how to lead a team with professionalism while playing like a complete professional. He knows how to leave his mark on the game in a non-flashy way and how to help his teammates get involved and grow as players as well. He showed this well in Toronto as he led the Raptors to the NBA’s highest pinnacle and accomplished a great feat: securing the franchise’s first NBA title.  

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be the best two-way duo in the league
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be the best two-way duo in the league

Overall, the atmosphere in the Los Angeles Clippers organization is at a higher level than the Lakers at this current time. It is one of excitement and pride, and it should be.  

For the first time since the days of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Blake Griffin, they have a roster capable of challenging the best in the West and winning the team’s first championship. They have excellent leadership including the team’s longtime, celebrated head coach Doc Rivers who always put the team before individuals and knows what it takes to make a championship team.  

Very quickly, the Clippers are seeing an increase in talk, coverage, and interest from both the media and basketball fans in Los Angeles. In addition, it is becoming a new destination of intrigue for players heading towards their free agent opportunities who want to move out west.  

As the Lakers continue to make the big moves that they hope will return their franchise to dominance in the NBA, the losing seasons have continued to pile on. Meanwhile for the Clippers, their moves are paying off and the proof is in the winning records and playoff appearances.  

Los Angeles has for a long time been a city of purple and gold when it comes to basketball, but very soon one might find more blue and red popping up around Staples Center. The LA Clippers are tired of being the little fish in such a big basketball market and are looking to take over.  

The Clippers are set to take over Los Angeles basketball.  

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