Commentary

Does Lakers-Clippers matchup matter?

With the dynamics having changed, the question arises about the preseason

Updated: December 19, 2011, 8:23 AM ET
By ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Lakers and Clippers kick off their short exhibition season Monday night at Staples Center with the first of two games against each other before their Christmas Day openers.

With the Clippers' acquisition of Chris Paul last week, it has many fans wondering if Los Angeles' perpetual NBA stepchild is ready to become more than second fiddle in this town.

So with all the attention on L.A.'s two teams, one might think these games might mean a little more than usual or even actually matter.

Two of our writers take a quick look at whether or not this might be true this season.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPNLosAngeles reporter and columnist: On the one hand, it feels as if everything matters in the NBA right now because of the ridiculously condensed two-week training camp. Every practice, every scrimmage, every exhibition game feels vitally important to team-building and chemistry, particularly for two teams trying to cover as much ground this year as the Lakers and Clippers.

The truth is, success in this lockout-shortened season will have to do more with health and luck than anything else. The schedule is grueling. Sixty-six games in 120 days. Back-to-back-to-backs. Oh yeah, and a bunch of players who were expecting to be locked out until mid-January who had to rush back after Thanksgiving and hurriedly work themselves into shape.

It's a recipe for chaos and confusion. Some say deeper teams have an advantage. Others suggest more experienced, together teams have the edge. The reality is no one knows which set of intangibles will matter most. Perhaps a young team with fresh legs such as the Clippers will benefit. Maybe an older, hungry team like the Lakers or Boston or San Antonio is better suited to sprint to the title.

Come June, we'll all have a better answer to the question. But for now, it's all just guessing.

So enjoy this week's exhibition games between the Clippers and Lakers. Set your DVR at home for the first alley-oop between Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Watch Kobe Bryant closely to see if the cutting-edge procedure he had performed on his knee over the summer has put some spring back into his step. Heck, cheer along with Clipper Darrell if you want.

Just don't read too much into them.


Arash Markazi, ESPNLosAngeles reporter and columnist: It's an exhibition, so by its very definition, Monday night's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers isn't supposed to mean anything. Both teams are simply supposed to go through the motions before a group of apathetic fans who don't really care who wins or loses.

If you think that's what Monday night's game will be like, you clearly didn't hear what Lakers fans were chanting about the Clippers during their scrimmage Friday, or what Clippers fans were chanting about the Lakers during their scrimmage Sunday. Let's just say they don't like each other very much these days.

This isn't just a reinvigorated rivalry, it's a completely new rivalry. Despite playing in the same city and in the same arena, there's never really been a rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers. Not only was it not considered a rivalry among realistic players, but it wasn't much of a rivalry among the fans. After all, the Clippers haven't exactly given their fans much ammunition for sports bar debates and Lakers fans think anyone with Clippers gear on might as well be wearing a dunce cap.

That's all changed. The Clippers actually have players on their roster that Lakers fans wish they had. Outside of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers would trade their entire roster for the Clippers' in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Clippers aren't interested in trading Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe for Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake.

With a reloaded roster and renewed hope, Clippers fans are walking around the city these days with their chests out, wearing their "Lob City" T-shirts with pride. They believe it is time for Los Angeles to be a Clippers town. Lakers fans know better and that's why Monday's and Wednesday's games, and every game between the Lakers and Clippers from now on, means more than it ever did before.

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