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Since acquiring top-notch point guard, Chris Paul, along with other complementary pieces, several spectators have expressed the belief that the new-look Clippers are now the dominant team in L.A. They are young, fast, and will present one of the most exciting styles of play that the league has to offer. However, those who have jumped on this bandwagon need to slow down – for the Lakers are still the better team in Los Angeles.
When looking at the Clippers’ roster, it is easy to have high expectations for their future. By recently bringing in Paul, new G.M. Neil Olshey has built a team that features one of the game’s top point guards playing alongside rising star, Blake Griffin. Although, the hype is not just about the highlight reel alley-oops that the two will put on display almost every night. Clippers’ management also boosted their roster by bringing in proven veterans, such as guard, Chauncey Billups, and forward, Caron Butler. Young players such as guard, Eric Bledsoe, and center, DeAndre Jordan, make the Clippers a hot topic as well.
Without a doubt, this team appears very complete on paper. With the level of competition in the Western Conference on the decline, they should definitely be able to clinch one of the eight playoff berths available. Nevertheless, their overwhelming youth and lack of experience playing together will not allow them to supersede the Lakers this season. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Andrew Bynum, and Derek Fisher have played side by side for multiple years now. Their cohesiveness as a unit is unparalleled in comparison to the Clippers. The Lakers will also not be hurt by an extremely shortened training camp and preseason caused by the lockout.
Directly related to that notion would be the Lakers’ comprehension of what it takes to win games in this league. The Clippers have too much youth to immediately understand how to consistently win. Couple that with the fact that the Lakers also have more proven talent on both ends of the floor. Another advantage that the Lakers have over the Clippers comes from their new motivation. While the Clippers are definitely motivated to finally be relevant and have a winning season, the Lakers’ incentive is much more powerful.
Kobe and the Lakers were flat-out embarrassed by the Mavs at the end of last season. No one’s worst nightmare could imagine a back-to-back champion being swept out of the second round following three consecutive Finals appearances. The Lakers have had to live with that shame since May. They had to sit at home and watch that same Dallas team win the world championship that would have given Phil Jackson his fourth three-peat as a head coach.
If anyone could have a larger chip on their shoulder, it would be the Miami Heat, not the Clippers. Expect a newly re-energized Laker team that does not show stretches of sheer laziness as they did last year. An argument to dispute these claims would be linked to the compacted 66 game schedule. Many people believe that this will be a hindrance to the Lakers, considering their lack of youth, while it can be a blessing for the Clippers due to their abundance of it. Do not buy into that philosophy too quickly.
The lockout and the Lakers’ early exit last season have given them the opportunity to rest much more in the offseason in preparation for this year. The Lakers also have only one stretch where they play games on three consecutive nights, and that is to open the season. Still, will their age catch up to them in the long run?
They are one of the older teams in the league, but players like Bryant and Gasol are still two of the more elite talents in the game, even if they are no longer in their primes. A great young player like Bynum will also be able to lighten the load for the veterans. Overall, age is not as big of an issue for this team as it is for the Spurs and Celtics. They should be able to overcome it in the long run. By season’s end, the world will see that the Lakers are still the kings of Tinseltown.