Prior to this season, there never really was a rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. The Lakers have always owned the city due to the fact they’ve won over a dozen championships while the Clippers have never even been to the Conference Finals. Things were supposed to change this year as the Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the offseason and they were considered favorites to win the title all season.
Well, they couldn’t even make it to the Conference Finals as they were upset by the Denver Nuggets in seven games. All year, the Lakers have had to hear that the Clippers were the better team despite the fact that they won more games. He may be new to the purple and gold but JR Smith had the perfect reaction to the Clippers collapsing.
— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) September 16, 2020
He didn’t directly call out the Clippers but it’s obviously a dig at all the hype that was surrounding the team. All that talk about the Clippers taking over Los Angeles is making a lot of people look bad.
Not Championship or Bust for Clippers?
Dozens of former players and media figures were all over the Clippers this season. It was hard to find many analysts who thought the Lakers were the better team. Due to that fact, there’s probably going to be a lot of excuse-making. Paul George, who had a horrific playoff run, is already starting with the excuses.
“I think internally, we always felt this was not a championship-or-bust year for us,” George said.
That sounds like some revisionist history. The Lakers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics all added new stars this offseason and all three of them are in the Conference Finals. You don’t add the defending NBA Finals MVP and not expect a championship the first year. For the Lakers, they’ve been clear about their championship aspirations all year and that’s why they still have a chance to win it all. That’s also why they will always be the kings of Los Angeles.
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What’s Next for the Clippers?
This debacle against the Nuggets puts the Clippers in a really bad spot. They mortgaged their entire future to build a talented team around Kawhi Leonard, who is only under contract for one more season. If they faceplant again next season, the superstar has to consider going elsewhere.
If the Clippers hope to ever beat the Lakers, they might need to try to find a better second option than George. He’s typically great in the regular season but fell apart once again in the playoffs. Adding a playing like Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a serious upgrade. Giannis and Kawhi would be the best duo in the NBA, even better than LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen. The Clippers don’t have many assets left and the Bucks aren’t going to give up their best player for “Playoff P.” There isn’t a clear path for the Clippers to overtake the Lakers.