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Identity Crisis: Los Angeles: Lakers and Clippers Season Previews

The Los Angeles Lakers championship banners will not be seen inside Staples Center during Clippers games this season. The teams have shared the stadium since the 1999-2000 season but, of the two, the ‘Lake Show’ is the team that’s attained any accolades worthy of presenting to the audience at Staples.

“This is our arena when we play,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

Was it the personality and credentials of the championship coach, or the talented Clipper roster, that makes hiding the Lakers’ championship banners low-er key news in the NBA preseason? The ’99 season is also the year Rivers entered the league as a head coach, when he was awarded Coach of the Year honors coaching the Orlando Magic. The Clippers are the considerable favorite to win the Western Conference, and the Lakers will likely be left on the outside, watching on, as their inner city foes battle in the postseason. Maybe it’s the dwindling window for former prolific superstars Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, of the Lakers, to make a final run at a championship — the trio of veterans don’t have many competitive seasons remaining in the tank. However; this is only the fate until the Black Mamba makes his return, that’s when the purple and gold plan to re-evaluate their success.

Nash or Gasol certainly aren’t strangers to leadership or Superstar roles, but fitting  the pieces fit with Nick Young , Chris Kayman, Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar is a tall task to ask of any tandem. The four role players combined to average 49 points this preseason.

Lakers’ head coach Mike D’Antoni was asked by the media if Bryant would be available for the season opener – SI’s Point Forward shared his answer.

“No, my God,” D’Antoni replied, when asked if Bryant would play. “I know he’s Superman, but my God. He hasn’t run yet.”

 

Photo Credit Sam Amick

Photo Credit Sam Amick

 

How will the Clippers respond to the opportunity to take the town by storm? Blake Griffin, destined to be one of the most thrilling high-flying dunkers the league has ever seen, states that the team’s former alias, “Lob City,” has gone by the wayside.

“Lob City doesn’t exist anymore. Lob City is done,” Griffin said, via ESPN LA. “We’re moving on and we’re going to find our identity during training camp and that will be our new city. No more Lob City.”

My question to Griffin; why not? It’s understandable to be humble in the presence of an all-time great coaching staff, but to go away from ‘lob city’ is sheer lunacy — that’s where the offense lives. This is a play from last season — the starting power forward throws an ally-oop to the starting center (DeAndre Jordan) in transition. 

When the Clippers can’t get looks in transition they’ll rely heavily on pick and roll plays featuring all pro point guard Chris Paul, the clip below shows P&R sequences from a post season game against the Grizzlies.

Notice that when bigs Jordan or Griffin are unable to lift-off to receive an ally oop, sixth man of the year contender Jordan Crawford or Chauncey Billups is on the perimeter for a spot-up look at a three-point shot, or a pump fake away from an open lane to the basket for layup or opportunity for a rimrocking smash.

Billups since has returned to his former team, the Detroit Pistons, but the Clips brought aboard 39 percent lifetime three-point specialist J.J Redick. Redick played the second half of last season with the Milwaukee Bucks, theoretically the move by L.A. is an upgrade based simply on previous circumstances. He’s never shot worse than he did playing for the Bucks last season.

Tonight’s game at the Staples Center is a home game for the Lakers, though that didn’t make a difference last season as the Clippers swept the season series between the teams. The Clippers are all business this season, while the their in-town counterparts just hope to steady the ship until their longtime captain returns. Will the tabloids turn on the Clippers this season as they would if the Lakers were a championship contender? How much worse can it be for D’antoni, Nash, Gasol and the Superstar in question — Kobe?

Tune in to TNT at 10:30PM EST tonight, as these two teams open the NBA, and chapter one of their 2013-2014 rivalry against each other in prime time tonight.  And make sure to catch these two live this here by purchasing Clippers tickets and Lakers tickets for the 2013-14 regular season.