Today the NBA season officially begins, and LA, unlike most cities, has two teams to cheer for, the Lakers and the Clippers. To add to the drama, they start the season off against each other.
However… How can we put this gently?
The Lakers are a legendary franchise. They moved to LA in 1960 and have since won 11 titles. Combined with their 5 championships in Minneapolis, they have a total of 16 titles, second only to the Boston Celtics. Scores of former Lakers have been inducted into the hall of fame, with many more on the way. And at $1 billion, they are the second most valuable franchise in the NBA, behind the New York Knicks.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have only three players in the hall of fame, zero championships, and one division title.
But that division title came just last year, and the future looks promising. With Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and now head coach Doc Rivers at the helm, all with multi-year contracts, the Clippers are looking to start a new era in LA. On top of that, Chris Paul is 28, and Blake Griffin is only 24.
And while the Clippers look like they’re bringing all the pieces together with a talented young core, the Lakers, in contrast, seem to be falling apart. Kobe Bryant, 35, ruptured his Achilles tendon near the end of last season and is not expected back until late this year at the earliest. Starting point guard Steve Nash will turn 40 this season.
Sure, the Lakers won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010, but since then, the team has been in chaos. After Phil Jackson retired in 2011, the Lakers have had three head coaches. Longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss passed away earlier this year, leaving the franchise to his children, Jim and Jeanie Buss. The result? The Lakers have not been made it past the second round of the playoffs, including two sweeps.
Today’s game is Lakers home game, and the Lakers have seemingly owned Staples Center, decorating it with Championship banners and retired jerseys, since it opened in 1999. But don’t think the Clippers will be intimidated. In fact, starting this year, the Clippers will be hanging their own banners during home games.
A sign of changing tides? Perhaps. With the Lakers freeing up cap space for the upcoming free agency of 2014, they may be poised for a rebirth. But for now, LA may very well be Clipper Town. Excuse, us, Lob City.
- Carlos Delgado, CBS Radio