The Lakers suffered their worst loss in franchise history on Thursday night, falling to the Clippers, 142-94 in an abortion of every defensive principle at the professional level. As such, the media has deemed it the changing of the guard in Los Angeles since the Lakers suffered the ignominy of such a lopsided loss at the hands of Staples Center partners, the Clippers. But before we overreact to a single game in an injury-plagued Lakers season, let’s not forget that it’s the Lakers and Clippers we’re talking about, and the Clippers still have yet to ever advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers are better than the Lakers this season, obviously. But the Clippers were probably better than the Lakers last season when the purple and gold had a post-back surgery Dwight Howard, 70 percent of the husk formerly known as Steve Nash and a healthy Kobe Bryant for much of the season. So why is everyone using last night’s Lakers nightmare on TNT as an excuse to promote the game as some sort of lodestone for the inverted fortunes of Los Angeles’ twin basketball franchises?
The most obvious example of this hyperbolic exaggeration comes from “Around the Horn” guest, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke. His piece after the game entitled, “Lakers lose not just a game but their dignity in rout by Clippers,” is exactly what we’re talking about. So many years of a winning Los Angeles Lakers team has shifted everyone’s reactions to an unhealthy extreme. Lakers fans and writers have become like the coterie of authors that have re-interpreted and misappropriated the Book of Revelations. Last night was the apocalypse, and Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Matt Barnes and DeAndre Jordan are the Four Horseman.
From our vantage point (on the other coast with no rooting interest in either team), the Lakers are still the Lakers, and the Clippers, God bless ‘em, are still the Clippers.
As out of touch as Lakers owner Jim Buss can seem at times, at least he’s not a guy that’s been sued by the Justice Department for housing discrimination, or reneged on a loudly trumpeted promise to build a homeless shelter on the Eastern edge of LA, like Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Plus, Jim has sister Jeanie, who is both beautiful, stately, and smart.
But it’s not just the owners that separate the disparate organizations, though there’s a case to be made that the fortunes of both teams has been the run off from their owners’ own personalities. Jerry Buss (RIP) was quite possibly the best NBA owner in history. Donald Sterling heckles his own freakin’ players.
The Clippers have Billy Crystal and Penny Marshall as their most ardent geriatric supporters. The Lakers have Jack motherf**kin Nicholson. All three celebrities are old, but only one of them is still relevant, and that’s because it’s freakin’ Jack. Plus, and this is just after a cursory look around Staples when we visited in December, but there’s a scene when attending a Lakers game (and everything in LA is a “scene”), which we’re guessing doesn’t exist for the Clippers. That’s just a subjective impression, but there are more concrete reasons we don’t see such a definitive change dawning in the LA pro hoops culture.
The Lakers are really banged up this year, and yes hamstrung by some poor financial decisions â€” mostly stemming from that contract to keep Kobe in LA for the last two years of his career. While it’s true Kobe will (probably â€” and that’s a big probably) rebound next season, it’s not as definitive as most Kobe acolytes believe. We wouldn’t bet against him, obviously, but we wouldn’t bet on him anymore, either.
Listen, the Lakers got beat bad last night. It was the worst loss in their storied history as a franchise. Before last night, their previous worst was a 46-point drubbing to the Portland Trail Blazers in…1995. Less than five years later, they had drafted Kobe, acquired Shaq in a trade and were about to start a mini-dynasty with a 3-peat. Were people panicking then? Of course they were. But the Lakers found a way through to a title. Just because Jerry has passed doesn’t mean the Lakers mystique goes with him.
The Lakers will be fine, but the Clippers and their fans should refrain from celebrating too soon. The juju of Donald Sterling is always hovering nearby, and Chris Paul’s knee worries us â€” as does their interior defense. Doc Rivers is great, but even he has butt heads with Sterling already. We don’t think a blowout in early March against a Lakers team that’s comprised almost entirely of rotation players or fringe NBA guys is going to change the fortunes of two franchises decades in the making.
Does this Clippers blowout win against the Lakers signify that we’ve been ushered into a new era where the teams basically switch places in the eyes of the basketball-watching public? We’re guessing no, and we’re not alone:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 7, 2014
Does the Clippers’ big win over the Lakers have any larger significance?
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