Ahh, Christmas ‚Äď A day for joy, hope, and basketball.¬† Well, that and Laker Nation‚Äôs worst nightmare.
Let‚Äôs start with the second worst thing you can tell any Lakers fan (including this one): The Clippers are a better bet to hold up that giant golden basketball than the Lakers.¬† Oh sure, they won‚Äôt do that this year, but ‚Äď unless until Donald Sterling screws things up again ‚Äď they‚Äôre in much better position to win their first ring before the Lakers tie the evil green empire with #17.
Take heart, Lakers fan.¬† For the foreseeable future, at least we‚Äôre not going to be hearing the single worst thing we can ever hear: The Celtics win the championship.¬† Thanks, for that Kendrick Perkins trade, Danny Ainge!¬† Oh, and enjoy watching him in the Finals this year when the Thunder get worked by The Heatles.
Anyway, here‚Äôs a look at why it might be time to consider jumping bandwagons.¬† In an attempt to avoid causing Laker Nation to break out in hives this Christmas Day, we‚Äôll resist saying the words ‚ÄúChris Paul‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúLamar Odom‚ÄĚ unless absolutely necessary.
Point Guard. The Clippers don‚Äôt have a point guard better than anything the Lakers have.¬† They have four of them ‚Äď three All-Stars and a second-year player with a ton of potential.¬† Your Los Angeles Lakers?¬† Same as last year ‚Äď D-Fish and Steve Blake.¬† Oh, and there‚Äôs a second round rookie named Darius Morris who everyone has high hopes for.¬† Look, we love Fish, and Blake might actually turn back into Steve Blake outside the triangle offense.¬† No matter how well either of them plays, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams are better.¬† Lots better.
Advantage: Did we forget something?¬† Oh yeah, former Almost-Laker CP3.¬† Uh oh.¬† Advantage Clippers ‚Äď in a big way.
Shooting Guard. Okay, so the Clips kinda sorta don‚Äôt have one.¬† They‚Äôll just slide Chauncey Billups over and hope for the best.¬† That can‚Äôt possibly work, right?¬† It barely worked when the Lakers tried it with Jerry West and Gail Goodrich.¬† (Yeah, we know.¬† The league‚Äôs bigger now.)¬† The Clips will be tiny in the backcourt, but they‚Äôll be really, really good.
On the other hand, the Lakers have Kobe.¬† We hope.¬† The bottom line with Our Beloved Mamba is that he‚Äôs still better than 99% of the fellas in the league, but whether his wrist is okay or not, he‚Äôs got as much tread on his tires as Michael Jordan did.¬† When he was in Washington.¬† And his backup is‚Ä¶nobody really.¬† The Lakers just signed Jason Kapono to fire away from the outside, and even though he‚Äôs a small forward, he‚Äôll probably have to play here as Kobe‚Äôs backup.
Advantage:¬† Duh.¬† The Lakers still have the advantage here, but it‚Äôs not as big as you‚Äôd think.¬† If Number 24 goes down during the year, this is going to be ugly.¬† And don‚Äôt get us started on what happens when the Lakers play Oklahoma City and see James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha.
Small Forward. Having gifted L.O. to Dallas, everyone‚Äôs pal Ron Ron Metta Metta will bring World Peace to the sixth man slot.¬† The Lakers will apparently start Devin Ebanks in his second year.¬† Matt Barnes, who was pretty productive ‚Äď at times, at least ‚Äď last year, is now the third-string Three.¬† Uh, okay.¬† The Clippers?¬† While the Lakers were giving gifts to the Mavs, the Clips were accepting them in the form of another All-Star, Caron Butler.¬† The Clips even have a decent backup in Ryan Gomes.
Advantage:¬† To the Clippers.¬† Unless Metta Metta returns to his form of several years ago now that he‚Äôs been freed from the triangle, it‚Äôs not even close.
Power Forward. For however long he‚Äôs here, the Lakers still have the game‚Äôs ‚Äúmost skilled big man‚ÄĚ in Pau Gasol.¬† Pau looked like he was downside of his career by playoff time last year, but wethinks he‚Äôll be his old self this year.¬† Just one thing: the most athletic big man plays at Staples Center.¬† He just doesn‚Äôt wear Forum Blue & Gold.¬† When Pau sits ‚Äď or moves over to center because ‚ÄėDrew Bynum‚Äôs either injured or suspended (see the first five games of this season) ‚Äď Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy are the epitome of acceptable substitutes.¬† That makes up for Blake Griffin how?
Advantage: To the Clippers.¬† Sorry Pau.
Center. He‚Äôs still here!!!¬† Kobe traded young Mr. Bynum a couple years ago.¬† The Odom disaster trade was presumably a prelude to the allegedly inevitable trade for Dwight Howard.¬† Until Superman arrives to save the day, give or take Games 1-5, the Lakers continue to hope their young Jedi will finally turn into a dominant NBA pivot.¬† The Clippers on the other hand‚Ä¶have DeAndre Jordan, a kid a couple years behind Master ‚ÄėDrew who has a ton of athleticism and needs to start cashing in on his potential, backed up by…nobody!¬† (Good luck in The Big Easy, Chris Kaman.)
Advantage: Lakers.¬† Probably.
Hurts to see it in black, white and whatever color links appear in in your browser, doesn’t it?
The real bottom line is this:¬† the Clippers are a team on the rise.¬† They‚Äôre the team with all the All Stars now.¬† The Lakers are a team with three big weapons (assuming Master ‚ÄėDrew is on his game) and a little depth.¬† Unless they pick up Superman, they‚Äôre a team on the decline.¬† Oh, and if they do pick up Mr. Howard, they‚Äôll probably have to give up Bynum and Gasol, leaving them with little beyond their new Big Two.¬† The landscape may not be barren in Lakerland, but happy days aren’t exactly here again.
Unless you’re a Clippers fan, in which case happy days aren’t here again.¬† They’re here for the first time.