The Clippers used to be No. 4 in L.A. behind the Lakers, UCLA and the Sparks; today, they are a clear No. 1.
Back in September, after the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers had completed their incredible offseason overhauls, I wrote an article in which I proclaimed that the Clippers would best the Lakers this season. My opinion was based on the Clippers' depth and chemistry and the Lakers' need to incorporate new players into their starting five.
So far, I was right; but in a way, I was also wrong.
As hard as it is for Lakers fans to believe, it's as clear as can be that, right now, the Clippers are the better basketball team in Los Angeles. That is no longer just my opinion, like it was in September when I heard from many who disagreed with me—today it's just an undisputed fact.
As much as I enjoy gloating, and I really do enjoy gloating—like, a lot—I have come to the realization that I was a bit short-sighted.
The Clippers have a chance to not only be the best team in Los Angeles, but in the Association.
Yeah, it's possible.
I'm not yet willing to proclaim them the favorites in the West, but, boy, do they look good. This team seems to have the perfect mix of youth and vets; of inside bangers and outside shooters; they can run with the best of them or slow the game down if needed.
In short: They are loaded.
When the Clippers started to take a turn toward respectability, the franchise most looked at as the one to model a team after was Oklahoma City. The Thunder were young, fast and exciting. They had great chemistry, and everyone—from the last bench player to the executives—seemed to be on the same page.
This was a team with a vision.
Today, the Thunder look more like the team that blundered after trading away the current NBA scoring leader, and the Clippers look a lot like the Thunder.
Now, it's doubtful that James Harden will hold that top spot at season's end, but the chances of the Clippers still being young, exciting and winners at season's end look pretty good.
Their season started in a playoff-like atmosphere where they met and beat what looks to be their rival in the Memphis Grizzlies. Nothing like a seven-game playoff series to start a good NBA rivalry. In that game, they showed they can flex their muscles and win a slower paced, half-court game.
Where the Grizzlies seem to be a legitimate rival created on the court, the Lakers are the Clippers' media-created rivals.
Everyone wants these two teams to mix it up, but the truth is there can be no rivalry when the teams aren't evenly matched. In the past, the Lakers were better than the Clippers; now, the Clippers are better than the Lakers.
The scoreboard does not lie.
Even in their recent loss to the Golden State Warriors, I saw a team that didn't give up. They had no business being in that game, yet they were. The Warriors just played better last night, but the Clippers had a chance to win the game in the end. Good teams create those chances.
No team has ever won all 82 games, but the really great teams give themselves the opportunity to win the vast majority of them.
Through the first three games, it seems obvious to me that these Clippers are a really great team. To label them the best team in Los Angeles is right, but short sighted.
This Clipper team has a chance to be much, much better than that.