Commentary

Looking ahead: Lakers and Clippers

Arash Markazi and Dave McMenamin discuss L.A.'s budding basketball rivalry

Updated: October 29, 2013, 3:57 AM ET
By Arash Markazi and Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The folks in the NBA offices in New York know a budding rivalry when they see one, so it's no surprise that one of the marquee matchups when the NBA season tips off on Tuesday features the Los Angeles Lakers facing the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams appear headed in opposite directions, shifting the balance of power in Los Angeles basketball for the first time since the Clippers moved here from San Diego 30 years ago. Are the Clippers really championship contenders? Are the Lakers really lottery-bound? We asked two of our writers to discuss it over email before the season begins.

From: Arash Markazi

To: Dave McMenamin

Subject: Best case/worst case scenario

Dave, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but the best-case scenario for the Clippers this season would be winning the NBA Finals. I know every team comes into the season with the goal of winning it all, but I think the Clippers come into this season as one of maybe six teams with a legitimate chance of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy and raising a banner that isn't a photo of J.J. Redick or Jared Dudley. Worst-case scenario is they get hit with some injuries and/or get a brutal first-round matchup like they did last season against the Memphis Grizzlies. Quite honestly, anything outside of making it to the Western Conference finals has to be considered a failure for this team.

I'm terrible when it comes to Lakers predictions. I picked them to win the NBA title last season and for Kobe Bryant to start the regular season. That being said, Lakers fans might not be too pleased to know that I'm picking them to make the playoffs as the eighth seed. I actually think 6- or 7-seed would be their best-case scenario. Their worst case would be just missing the playoff as the ninth seed and ending up with the 14th pick in the draft as opposed to putting themselves in position for the top pick. I mean, if you're not going to make a playoff run, why not make a run at Andrew Wiggins, right?

From: Dave McMenamin

To: Arash Markazi

Subject: RE: Best case/worst case scenario

I agree with you on the Clippers front, Arash. This might finally be the year they break through to win it all. That's why they went out on a limb to pry Doc Rivers from Boston. There are only four active head coaches who have won a championship, so Doc's voice is the rare voice that can back up what he says with a silent nod to the ring on his finger. I love how Rivers handled his first season with the Big Three in Boston and put that group on a championship route from the first time he met with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and took them on a Duck Tour around Boston. Worst-case scenario should be the Western Conference finals -- they're built to go far -- but I could see them getting tripped up early if they don't get enough development out of their bigs and buy-in from everyone.

On the Lakers front, here's another thought to throw into the worst-case scenario: Kobe Bryant comes back and isn't the same player he was. Just about every basketball fan I know, regardless of their opinion of the Lakers, wants to see Bryant beat this Achilles injury. Part of what makes him so intriguing as an athlete is that he has done the seemingly impossible (um, 81, hello). If Bryant isn't able to come back as strong as ever it will be a major blow to Lakers fans.

From: Arash Markazi

To: Dave McMenamin

Subject: X factor

[+] EnlargeDoc Rivers
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThis will mark the Clippers' first season under former Celtics skipper Doc Rivers, who is one of only four active head coaches to have won a championship.
While we were talking about the best- and worst-case scenarios, I got to thinking about X factors on both teams. I mean those scenarios will likely come down to one or two players having a great season or a bad season. I really think the Clippers' championship aspirations hinge on the development of DeAndre Jordan. Doc Rivers has gone out of his way to tie Jordan in with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as part of the Clippers' "Big Three." He wants him to be the Clippers' version of Tyson Chandler. If that happens, I really do think the Clippers could make a run at a title. If not, they'll probably fall short of the Finals.

I'm going to stick with the big men with the Lakers and say Chris Kaman will be a key player for the Lakers. The focus is on Pau Gasol but Kaman is a former All-Star and Olympian and could play a key role for the Lakers if they become a playoff contender. He could also make it easier for the Lakers to trade Gasol if they get a good offer for him before the trade deadline. What do you think?

From: Dave McMenamin

To: Arash Markazi

Subject: RE: X factor

For the Clippers, I'll go Darren Collison. Chris Paul is a dynamo, but what made the Clippers really special last season was Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench and running teams ragged. Collison can provide that same spark so there is no drop-off when Paul is taking a break. For the Lakers, I think it falls on Nick Young. In terms of body size and offensive skill set, you're talking about a player with the tools to be a top-20 player in the league. Mike D'Antoni will empower Young in his system and I am really expecting a huge year out of the local kid.

On a side note, I think Simon Cowell ruined the term "X factor" for us sportswriting folks forever. We might need to come up with a different way to describe a player like that. Maybe it should be, who is the panache guy?

From: Arash Markazi

To: Dave McMenamin

Subject: Question mark

I'm thinking of what the biggest question mark for these teams is and I'm not quite sure. I think for the Clippers it's going to be how quickly they adapt to a new coaching staff and half a new roster. They went to San Diego for a few days of training camp to try to speed up the bonding process, but the Clippers might not be as good as everyone thinks out of the gate as they adjust to each other.

I'm still trying to figure out if the Lakers are all in this season or if they're a good trade offer from cutting bait and tanking the season. I mean if a team offers the Lakers a nice young point guard for Pau Gasol and if, for example, the Toronto Raptors would be willing to take Steve Nash off the Lakers' hands, what do they do? Does Kobe Bryant even want to play this season at that point? I know that's a lot of question marks, Dave, but I don't know what to expect this season.

From: Dave McMenamin

To: Arash Markazi

Subject: RE: Question mark

My question for the Clippers is this: Are they too loaded? I know it all seems well and good now with so much talent on the team, but what happens when Rivers tightens the rotation? Will there be enough minutes to go around? We saw how Antawn Jamison responded to his benching with the Lakers last season.

My question for the Lakers is: Will they be able to defend anyone? D'Antoni has players who can pick up the pace his way, but that will become moot if they're giving up more points than they're scoring. They showed some promise with their wing defense in the preseason, but their interior D still worries me.

From: Arash Markazi

To: Dave McMenamin

Subject: Banners

I know we're in danger of beating a dead horse here but you know everyone's going to be talking about "Bannergate" on Tuesday. I didn't have an issue with the Clippers covering up the Lakers' banners and retired jerseys for their home games. I've been at shows where they were covered with a black tarp and didn't think twice about it. Lakers fans can still see the banners, jerseys and statues when they come to Lakers games. I don't see the need for the Clippers to honor the Lakers' history during their home games. Either way, I think it's another fun subplot to what is becoming a fun rivalry in this city.

From: Dave McMenamin

To: Arash Markazi

Subject: RE: Banners

[+] EnlargeChris Kaman
Getty ImagesWill Chris Kaman be a key member of the Lakers in 2013-14? Both the Clippers and Lakers feature a handful of players who have played for both sides.
I still don't like it. I think it comes off as insecure for the Clippers and also, as much as I respect J.J. Redick's and Jared Dudley's abilities, the fact that they got giant posters of themselves up in the rafters before they even played a regular-season game is laughable. If I were running the team, I would have hung a Pacific Division banner from 2012-13 and a retired microphone honoring Ralph Lawler and use that to start changing the culture.

From: Arash Markazi

To: Dave McMenamin

Subject: What do they think?

Here's an interesting question about the Lakers-Clippers rivalry. What do they think about each other? Having covered both of these teams for the past decade, I can honestly say the Lakers didn't really think twice about the Clippers until Blake Griffin arrived, and even more so when the whole Chris Paul "basketball reasons" thing happened. That was actually the moment this rivalry was truly born and they began playing on a level playing field. It's still a big brother-little brother thing, though. The Lakers know it and the Clippers don't hide it. They'll be the first ones to admit they really haven't done anything yet.

From: Dave McMenamin

To: Arash Markazi

Subject: RE: What do they think?

The Lakers certainly care about the Clippers, you can tell by the way they have played in those games in recent seasons. It goes for the Clippers caring about the Lakers, too. They see all the attention that their Staples Center cohabitants receive and want some of that for themselves. It spilled onto the court and the chippy play wasn't just between Griffin and Metta World Peace, either. The beauty of the dynamic between the two teams right now, for me, is all the players on both sides who have double dipped as both a Laker and a Clipper. The Lakers have Young, Kaman and Steve Blake. The Clippers have Jamison and Matt Barnes. Things are about to get interesting.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


MORE NBA HEADLINES