The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers has cooled off a bit this year. The two teams put together revamped rosters last year and it looked like they were destined to play each other in the Western Conference Finals in the definitive battle for Los Angeles. That didn’t exactly happen as the Clippers fell to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs while the Lakers went on to win the championship.
When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were brought to the Clippers, there was a lot of talk about how they were supposed to take over Los Angeles. Many didn’t believe that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would lead to the Lakers having the better team. According to Jared Dudley, in a book he co-wrote with Carvell Wallace of New York Times Magazine, the team weren’t fans of the hype the Clippers were getting:
We don’t talk to people on other teams. As far as we’re concerned, our squad is the only squad. We know that there are some real feelings regarding the Clippers. It’s more than just battle-for-LA stuff, though that’s part of it. Every day when we were on the outside, we were all driving past billboards with Kawhi Leonard wearing a crown. In our city. We didn’t like that. We hear some of those guys talking about how they’re the team to beat in LA. It’s fine if Kawhi says stuff like that. He’s defending a championship. We don’t trip if someone like Patrick Beverley is talking trash; that’s how he feeds his family. We get it. We respect the hustle.
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Dudley Calls out Paul George
While the billboards and trash talk were bad enough, the Lakers had a serious problem with Paul George. He’s never been to the NBA Finals but he was getting treated like one of the league’s great players.
“But we think it’s disrespectful for Paul George, who hasn’t won, to put himself on the level of Bron and AD. This motivates us,” Dudley wrote. “When we see those guys around the compound, we don’t really kick it with them. The one exception of course is Markieff [Morris], whose twin brother, Marcus, is on the Clippers. This probably keeps tensions from boiling over.”
George has actually become known for disappearing in the playoffs so he had no right to be crowned with anything yet.
Lakers Still Own Los Angeles
Obviously, the Lakers got the last laugh in 2020. After months of talk about how good the Clippers were, they couldn’t even make it to the Western Conference Finals. In fact, they’ve never made it to a Conference Finals throughout the history of the team.
The Lakers are tied with the Boston Celtics for the most championships in NBA history at 17. There really is no debate on which team owns Los Angeles. It also doesn’t look like things will change anytime soon. The Clippers and Lakers are sitting at the same 16-6 record this season. However, the purple and gold appear to have the better team. LeBron is still playing at a very high level and while Davis has had a slow start to the season, there’s no doubt he’ll pick things up.
Now, the Clippers do deserve some credit. They are also having a good season. If the two teams meet in the playoffs, the Clippers could give the Lakers a run for their money. That said, they have to actually make it happen before anybody can truly believe that they are the better Los Angeles team.