Like it or not, the Los Angeles Clippers are generating the level of hype the Los Angeles Lakers are used to. The kind of hype they were supposed to. And yeah, the type of hype they simply haven't thus far.
But that can all change.
Meanwhile, not-so-subtly, the Lakers entered a near free fall after failing to successfully run the Princeton offense, instead running themselves into the ground by losing four of their first five.
Now, however, Mike Brown is haunting the kitchens of Chick-fil-As everywhere and the Princeton offense has been left to dwell where it belongs—in the Ivy League.
Incidentally, Los Angeles has regained its footing, playing inspired basketball for a coach who is barely able to walk in Mike D'Antoni. Immediately upon Brown's firing, in fact, the Lakers went on to win four of their next five, playing like the powerhouse their roster of household names suggests they can be.
But that's not enough.
It's not enough that the Lakers have creeped their way toward playing better than .500 basketball. It's not enough that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are clicking on every level. It's not enough that D'Antoni's player-friendly approach has left Los Angeles' morale at an all-time high.
None of that's enough.
Not when the Staples Center's red-jerseyed stepchild is currently tied for the best record in the Western Conference and certainly not when said stepchild's payroll is nearly $30 million less than Purple and Gold's.
Still, this is no time to panic. The Clippers are a talented team and the pieces to their puzzle have simply come together earlier than the Lakers' have. There is still hope for Bryant and crew to regain what they consider their rightful place as Hollywood's finest.
By being more like the Clippers.
The Clippers are currently dominating in almost every facet of the game. They're third in points per game (101.5), seventh in points allowed (95.5), 11th in assists (22) and subsequently, posting the second-highest win differential behind the New York Knicks.
Obviously, saying the Lakers need to match such statistics is shortsighted. If teams could just match their desired statistics, there would be nothing to debate. This is about more than numbers.
The numbers are the result of a philosophy the Clippers have adopted: a free-flowing philosophy that has allowed them to play at a two-way pace few teams can match.
This is what the Lakers need to do; it's what they're halfway near doing with D'Antoni at the helm.
D'Antoni's entire offensive blueprint dictates that his team runs, that the ball move and the players shoot. It's already pushed the Lakers point totals to over 100 per night, giving them the sixth most potent attack in the league. It's also going to help them improve upon their 18th ranked 21.3 assists per game, especially when Steve Nash returns.
But what the Lakers still need to commit to doing is duplicating such a pace on defense.
The Clippers are averaging the second most points (18.1) in transition, but it hasn't come at the expense of their defense like it has for the fast-break leading Milwaukee Bucks, who are allowing nearly 98 points a bout.
D'Antoni's squad, by comparison, must find such a balance. Sure, the Lakers' offensive potency has increased, but they're scoring just 10.9 fast break points per night—26th lowest in the Association—and still allowing over 95 points a night.
Yes, becoming a two-way powerhouse like the Clippers is easier said than done. But the Lakers have the personnel to do it. They have the athletes necessary to run the floor and then get back on defense. They have the ability to become just as cogent a unit as the Clippers, if not even more efficacious.
Once they begin to commit to two-way dominance, the wins will start to pile up, early-season losses will become but a distant memory, and most importantly, the Lakers will reclaim their spot on Tinseltown's throne fitted for one.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 20th, 2012.
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