Sports fans should be intrigued by what’s brewing in Los Angeles right now. As the USC Trojans crash their way right back into college football’s elite after a two-year bowl game ban, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers have two of the best teams in the NBA heading into this year.
Life is good in Los Angeles right now and it usually is—the weather is just too perfect.
But this isn’t about the weather. This is about the fact that this is going to be a fun season in the City of Angels. The season after this one though, especially for the Clippers and Lakers, has early and subtle implications of being even better.
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are still going to be free agents at the end of this season meaning they could still, as supposedly planned, be on the same team very soon. The fact that they’re in the same city puts a further twist on their free-agency situations.
As Howard has finally made his way to Hollywood, contending for a title and knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder as champs of the Western Conference doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it recently did for the Lakers.
Paul, on the other hand, is in the same arena on different nights and looking to elevate the Clippers from entertaining to actually contending. As far as basketball contracts go, the possibility of D12 and CP3 playing together in L.A. is very realistic.
For now, though, the Lakers have Steve Nash and he isn’t just some old guy they picked up. The purple and gold are officially legit contenders with Nash as, without question, he is a complete turnaround and massive upgrade for the Lakers. Although he’s widely considered a defensive-minded head coach, in acquiring Nash, Mike Brown has to be ecstatic.
Nash knows when to shoot and pass, and having Howard running the floor, Kobe Bryant trailing and a less-stressed Pau Gasol, the Lakers have that look again coming into this season.
Watch out, Celtics; this may be the year you get caught.
Howard’s presence without losing Gasol comes with the same "gift-wrapping" implications that were present when Gasol came to the Lakers for virtually nothing in return a few years ago.
The Lakers didn’t miss a beat this offseason, drastically improving, and the same can be said for the Staples Center’s co-tenant.
Paul and Blake Griffin should have been Olympic teammates this year representing the Clippers for Team USA, and although Griffin suffered an injury and isn’t competing for the gold in London, the stakes are high for the Clippers this coming season—really high.
Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro has done a superb job in his temporary, secondary role as general manager managing the team’s roster this summer. Del Negro has structured a group that will almost certainly have a more prevalent playoff run after acquiring veterans Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford and Ronnie Turiaf. All the while keeping the core intact with the re-signing of Chauncey Billups and a contract extension to Griffin for five years.
Ironically, that is where the usual drama starts.
Paul didn’t take a three-year extension offer this summer, which isn’t surprising because the money he can get if he re-signs with the Clippers as a free agent, or anywhere else, is going to be more lucrative for him and his family—rightfully so.
The catch to Paul not re-signing is the supposed, but very serious adage that Howard is “test-driving” the Lakers for this season. Maybe Howard is really testing out Kobe as a teammate, but who knows? Kobe seemed to be somewhat of a roadblock in a supposed conversation between him and Howard during the D12-to-L.A. rumors not too long ago. It’s always a "he said, she said" type scenario and we’ll never really know.
The truth is, nobody really could understand why Howard seemed reluctant in playing for the Lakers save the "following in Shaq’s footsteps" theory, but Howard has assured he’s all in as of now. The likelihood of Howard staying in Los Angeles is high. If that is as a center for the Lakers remains to be seen.
In essence, both Howard and Paul are controlling their own cards and could still, in all honesty, be teammates either in Los Angeles or somewhere else come the ‘13-‘14 season.
Why wouldn’t the pick-pocket Paul want to be a part of the defensive-coached Lakers with Nash coming off the bench and an aging but still perfectionist superstar in Bryant along with both Gasol and Howard?
Then again, why wouldn’t Howard want to be a Clipper and dominate the frontcourt with Griffin, having Paul as the leader and the roster-that-can-realistically-only-get-better being put in place by Del Negro?
Either way, it is the same weather in the same city and Howard or Paul would simply be swapping uniforms in this likely possibility of them as teammates for either of the Los Angeles teams. A situation like this would only add to the ever-entertaining, recently intensified battle of the city between the big brother Lakers and the I-really-have-my-own-identity-now Clippers.
With that being said, the Miami Heat, most likely by the end of the season, will still need a point guard and center. It would be a nightmare for the rest of the NBA if Paul and Howard were to make a move like that.
Anyway it’s viewed, though, the next two years and beyond are going to be fun and full of stories and rumors in the soap-opera sports world both in and out of Los Angeles.
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