Wednesday, September 14, 2005

30 Reasons to Get Fired Up for the 2005-06 NBA Season - #28


The Battle For Supremacy in L.A.


Last season the Clippers finished with a better record than the Lakers for the first time in 12 years and only the 3rd time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles. Of course it's easy to overlook this when you consider that neither team won more than 37 games. Nevertheless, there's some built up intrigue heading into this season when you consider that both teams have made significant improvements during the offseason. And for perhaps the first time ever, the Lakers may be considered the underdog to the team many people have dubbed the 'JV' squad over the years.

The Clippers will enter training camp with two new, experienced faces in the backcourt in Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Each of these guys addresses the Clippers' pathetic perimeter game from a season ago, thus allowing Maggette to continually slash to the basket and get to the line (his forte), and Elton Brand to receive less attention on the post and more opportunities to hit the offensive glass hard (his forte). If these four key players can stay healthy for the duration of the season (huge 'if''), say 70 games apiece, the Clips should be in the thick of the Playoff race throughout the year. Right now their lack of depth is their most glaring weakness and any significant injuries could spell doom for them. It's also going to be interesting to see how well these guys share the ball-- Cassell, Mobley, and Maggette all love to have the ball in their hands.


Clippers

  • PG - Cassell/Livingston
  • SG - Mobley/Ross/Ewing
  • SF - Maggette/Singleton/Korolev (unsigned)
  • PF - Brand/Wilcox
  • C- Kaman/Rebraca

3 factors kept the Lakers out of the Playoffs last season- 1) The resignation of Rudy Tomjanovich; 2)- The injury to Kobe Bryant in January that kept the star out 15 games; and 3) The inability to play quality defense and rebound with bigger teams. All 3 of these problems have been addressed this offseason with Phil Jackson coming back to captain the ship, Kobe as healthy as he's ever been, and Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum added for some desperately needed size up front. It might take some of the younger guys and new additions a little while to adjust to the triangle offense, but the Lakers could prove to be a dangerous team out West if Kobe, Lamar, and Phil prove that they can co-exist and live up to their awesome potential.

Lakers

  • PG - McKie/Vujacic/Bobbitt
  • SG - Bryant/Profit/Wafer (unsigned)
  • SF - Odom/George/Walton
  • PF - Brown/Cook/Jones
  • C - Mihm/Medvedenko/Bynum

Friday, November 18 @ 10:30 PM ET - Clippers at Lakers
Saturday, January 7 @ 10:30 PM ET - Lakers at Clippers
Friday, February 24 @ 10:30 PM ET - Lakers at Clippers on ESPN
Sunday, April 9 @ 9:30 PM ET - Clippers at Lakers

I have nothing to back this up, but I'm guessing this is the first time a Clippers/Lakers game has ever been broadcast on national television. This is absolutely no coincidence. You're going to see a month from now that a lot of experts have not just one, but both of these teams making the Playoffs. What do I think? I like the Lakers to be the better team. I think Phil's going to get the best out of Kobe and develop Lamar into a quality sidekick. But The Lakers won't be a top notch team until Kwame and Bynum develop, or if they develop. The Clippers should hover around .500 for the better part of the season, but I think their abundance of injury-prone players and lack of depth will keep them out of the Playoffs. Either way, this is a rivalry that's really going to make waves this season and hopefully for years to come.

4 Comments:

At 6:18 PM, Blogger BBallBlog said...

Good post, Paul (and I'm enjoying this series by the both of you).

A few things:

I'm not 100% certain, but I do believe a Lakers/Clippers game being televised in the 2003-2004 season on TNT.

I don't see the Lakers making the playoffs (again). And I'm not sure why they would want to make a strong push this year. There's only 5-6 teams that have a legit shot, and San Antonio is so far ahead of the field, if I weren't the basketball fan that I am, I wouldn't question Stern handing them the title right now. If I'm the Lakers, I play competitively but intentionally get in the lottery this time and don't waste your pick on a high schooler. They need someone who can help now.

Of the two LA teams, I see the Clippers being better. They were better last year and have improved with the signings of Mobley and the trade for Cassell. There's really only question in Clipperland: If those two can pass the ball and Cassell plays remotely close to how he did in 2003-2004. If he does, I wouldn't be surprised if they make the playoffs at all.

But the Lakers are out of the question. Not deep enough right now.

 
At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the lakers are "significantly improved"??? Phil Jackson is worth a few games, but unless Kwame shows us something he has not yet, the talent is much worse than the mediocre team they put out there last year. The team lost 2 decent starters and replaced them with garbage. And because of Kobe and Phil, we're gonna be stuck with the Lakers on TV 20 times a year and on ESPN 20 times an hour. Ugh. (And I'm a huge Kobe fan).

sjg

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

It's still early and I haven't made my Playoff predictions just yet, but I do think the Lakers will be an improved team this season. You have to remember that their final record is not indicative of where they could have finished had A) Rudy T not shockingly stepped down; B) Kobe not missed 15 games during January and February; and C) Odom not missed the last month of the season. Supposedly they decided not to throw bigger bucks at Watson or Derek Anderson and settled for Aaron McKie because they know they're not competing for a championship this season, and they want to give Sasha Vujacic a fair opportunity to establish himself as a 25-30 minute guy from the point. That's going to hurt, but not THAT much. Kobe and Lamar both are at their best with the ball in their hands anyways-- the key for the Lakers will be HOW they share the ball. Last season it basically a disaster. The Lakers constantly got hammered by better teams late in games because Odom was nonexistent. That team completely gave up on Frank Hamblen once they started stumbling however, and I don't see that happening this year. If there's any coach out there who can tame Kobe's ego and unleash Lamar's assertiveness, it's Phil. Kwame won't be a huge stud for LA, and if he ever is going to be, he's got a lot of work to do. BUT, remember how solid Chris Mihm was in the first half of the season? When he was getting about 4 dunks a game and blocking a couple shots? That's CHRIS FREAKING MIHM! I don't care how you want to cut it, Kwame is an awesome athlete for his a big guy and is a big dude as well. If he can't topple Mihm's 11 PPG and 6 RPG from before the ASB, then something is seriously wrong with this guy. I like this team's make-up right now, I think they match up very well in the West. If they do indeed go with a McKie, Bryant, Odom, Brown, Mihm lineup-- you're talking about a very big team that can get up and down the floor. They'll have serious problems against guard-oriented teams like Sacramento, Phoenix, and Golden State, but if you look at the big picture out West, it's more of a frontcourt heavy conference. Nobody will compete with San Antonio, but there's no reason why the Lakers can't be considered a legitmate Playoff contender with their current team.

 
At 11:05 PM, Blogger EZ Snappin said...

Both teams depth - or lack therof - will be their downfall. They each have exactly one reserve worth a uniform number (Livingston & George, respectively) and their starters are going to be logging major minutes if they want to be competetive.

Picking between them - I give the Clippers a slight edge. But it's like picking a soft, brown banana instead of a moldy peach.

A point I seem to hammer in all my comments here - Kwame is not a legitimate third (or fourth) option, nor is he going to be better than Mihm. He couldn't grasp the Princeton motion offense after two years, and the Triangle requires even more thought. Kwame is a great athlete - big, agile & strong. However, he has never shown an inkling of basketball knowledge or the desire to acquire it. IF he busts his butt, IF he finds some desire, IF he even can grasp a smattering of basketball knowledge - then you have a player. That's a lot of Ifs for a starting player. There are reasons he sat behind players like Etan Thomas and Haywood and even Ruffin.

 

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