Do you believe Chris Paul saying that he preferred to join the Los Angeles Clippers over the Los Angeles Lakers last year? Talking to GQ, the Dream Team point guard said he was happier that his trade to the darker side of LA went through, coming after Stern vetoed his move to the Lakers.
It’s better for the league, that’s for sure. For the first time in years, there’s been a buzz around the Clippers. It began earlier, in Blake Griffin’s rookie season, the one he didn’t miss with an injury, but the transformation was complete when Paul arrived, making the Clippers a legitimate playoff team, with even a title on their mind for the first time in what seems like forever. They’re not title material, but they don’t look so insane actually thinking about it with the team that was assembled there.
This summer may have taken back some of the attention, as the Lakers were the ones to make the big moves – trading for both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, joining Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant in the next star studded edition of the Lakers trying to win an NBA title. But star power doesn’t necessarily make you better.
While the Clippers don’t have anyone like Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul is definitely the second best player when you put the two rosters together. Third? Might be Dwight Howard, when he’s healthy. Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin? I’m not sure who I’d pick first. It depends on how the decline of Gasol continues next year.
Last time the Clippers had a better record than the Lakers wasn’t that long ago. In the 2005-2006 season, when the Clippers made the playoffs for the first time in 9 years, they finished with 47 wins, actually making the conference semifinal before losing to the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers won 45 regular seasons game that year, losing in the first round to the Suns. They won more the Lakers the previous season as well, the Lakers’ only non-playoff year since 1994.
Last year? Lakers won 41 games, the Clippers won 40. The two teams met three times during the regular season, with the Clippers winning the first game with a hue (33 points) Chris Paul game, falling in the next two. The big upgrade to the rivalry in terms of the Clippers’ quality has also made it more feisty on the floor. Hate? That’s always a strong word, especially when it comes to American sports, who don’t see the kind of fan involvement in terms of passion and also violence (fortunately, most of the time) that might happen in different sports around the rest of the world, but it’s definitely getting chippier. The Griffin dunk on Gasol; or Paul’s personal “favorite”, Gasol patting him on his head.
We call that sonnin’. Like when I take Li’l Chris to the bathroom, I’ll walk with my hand on his head. That’s my son. You know what I mean? I understand that Gasol is that tall, but don’t do to me what I do to my son.
The battle for Los Angeles supremacy, something that sounds like a joke most of the time, is an actual reality in the NBA world, with the Clippers believing they have a team that can not only beat LA over the course of a season, but make it further than the conference semifinal.