The Lakers have 17 NBA championships. The Clippers, meanwhile, made their first-ever appearance in the Western Conference finals last season. When it comes to the balance of power in Los Angeles, there should never be any doubt about the Lakers’ dominance.
Give owner Steve Ballmer some credit, though, as the Clippers begin their move out of the Lakers’ building, the Staples Center in downtown L.A.
Ballmer, in an ESPN interview, was ready to throw some shade at the Lakers, who will soon be crosstown rivals, not cross-Staples rivals:
We’re good now, and we’re going to be good year in and year out. We’re going to build our own building, more of our own identity, more of our own personality. And I think some of the fans on the other side, if you will, it’s like, ‘What? The You dare to question our supremacy?’ No, we do.
There’s 30 teams in the league. There’s 29 others. And we got one that happens to be based in L.A. And we got our fans. We use our expression, ‘LA Our Way.’ And we’re building our own presence, identity. And if the other guys feel a little threatened—the other guys’ fans, I mean; the players are actually a little different deal—but if they feel a little threatened, that’s OK. It means we’re doing good.
Clippers Leaving Lakers’ Staples Center for Inglewood
The Clippers are hoping to put some distance between themselves and the Lakers by opening a new building—the Intuit Dome—in Inglewood, which broke ground on Friday. The arena is located just south of SoFi Stadium, home of the Rams and Chargers. Ballmer is shelling out almost $2 billion for the arena, according to the team, and it is expected to open for the 2024-25 season.
Considering the team had played in the dilapidated Los Angeles Sports Arena (which had been built in 1959) near the USC campus until 1999, when it became tenants of the Lakers at Staples Center, the new building is an enormous upgrade and a testament to the changes Ballmer brought to the franchise since taking over for disgraced former owner Donald Sterling in 2015.
“We needed to say, ‘We’re our own guys. We don’t play in the same place as the other guys. We’re going to have our own identity,’” Ballmer told ESPN.
Lakers’ Offseason Overhaul has Them Favorites in the West
Still, it is doubtful Lakers fans feel much of a threat, even after the team was eliminated from the playoffs last year in the first round and the Clippers lasted into the conference finals. Heading into next season the Clips will be without star forward Kawhi Leonard, who tore his ACL during the postseason and is iffy to make a return in the 2021-22 season.
The Lakers, meanwhile, completely revamped the roster this offseason.
They swapped out Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wes Matthews and Alex Caruso in the backcourt for Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. They set their entire big-man rotation free and brought back Dwight Howard with DeAndre Jordan. They’ve got accomplished players like Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza providing depth.
The Lakers are listed as odds-on favorites to win the conference this season, according to VegasInsider.com, at +170. The Clippers, even without Leonard, are tied as the fourth choice in the West, at +750.