These two franchises have been joined at the hip, for better or worse, since the Clippers decided to call Staples home. More often than not, the union has tilted in favor of the purple and gold. The Lakers boast multiple Championships, All-Stars, a likable owner and a rich heritage. The Clippers, well, they have Clipper Daryl! Surprisingly, however, thanks to some luck and recent good personnel decisions, the tide might be shifting.
Sure, it's a slow shift, but things are looking good for the Clippers.
The fact that you can't watch an NBA game without seeing Blake Griffin, and therefore the Clippers, says a lot. Sure, their players have been on vacation for weeks, but the future looks as bright as it ever has in Clipper-dom.
In addition to the aforementioned Griffin, who incidentally is already being mentioned as a Laker saver by ESPN's J.A. Adande, the team has a solid core to build around. Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan and Mo Williams represent a quality 3/5 starting group. In addition to being athletic and under contract (with the exception of Jordan who I will get to a bit later), they are young.
Magic Johnson proclaimed on National TV this weekend that the league is an athletic one now. That is when he wasn't bashing the team he used to play for and partially owned.
He's right. Both about the status of the league and the coming demise of the Lakers.
To win in the Association now means to be young and athletic. The game is played from beyond the arc and above the rim. The Mavericks beat the Lakers on the strength of their shooting percentage. The Hornets scared the Lakers because of their muscle; yeah, their modern day version of Magic Johnson in Chris Paul didn't hurt either.
Dead-eye shooters and young, strong athletic players rule the NBA today.
Check out the Clippers checklist based on that criteria.
Dead eye shooter: Eric Gordon. Check.
Young, strong, athletic, above-the-rim players: DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Check.
Can you see why everyone is smiling around Clipper headquarters?
Now, Clipper faithful may be wondering where Chris Kaman is on the list of players to build around. Well, he isn't on the list because its time to move the former All-Star.
Yes, Clipper GM Neil Olshey mentioned Kaman's name as a building block in a recent interview. Olshey said that he saw value in the length that Kaman and Jordan brought. It worked for the Lakers after all.
Um, well, it worked for the Lakers until they met up a group of dead-eye, young, athletic shooters.
It has been a foregone conclusion in the Association that the Lakers' length was the key to their success. Gasol, Bynum and Odom were an insurmountable force, to tall to stop inside. Sure, but not to tall to shoot over, and way to slow to defend the pick and roll.
Suddenly, the pairing of Jordan and Kaman, which seemed odd to start with, doesn't have the appeal it used to.
Instead of carting out two seven footers, how about the Clippers trade one to address their biggest weakness?
They are set at the shooting guard in Eric Gordon. The point is handled by former All-Star Mo Williams. Give the center spot to Jordan and power forward is Blake Griffin's for as long as the Clippers can hold onto him. The challenge for the Clips has been the sound after the public address announcer belts out, "And now, starting at the small forward for your Los Angeles Clippers..."
** Insert cricket sounds here **
Now, imagine the same scenario after the PA Announcer says, "And now, starting at the small forward for your Los Angeles Clippers... Andre Iguodala!"
BAM! Much better, right?
Talk about delivering a football field-sized, heat-seeking, scud missile Terminix bomb to those Staples Center crickets!
Chris Kaman has one year remaining at $12.2 million, while Iggy will make $13.5 million next year and is signed through the 2013-14 season.
It works, and it makes sense.
The Clippers' remaining cap space can then be used to sign Jordan to a long-term deal, and the best starting five in Los Angeles is set: Gordon, Williams, Jordan, Griffin and Iguodala. Each one under thirty, each one athletic and each one signed for years to come.
Not even the Clippers could mess that up.