Los Angelinos get ready. For the second time in 11 days, Staples Center will serve host to the NBA’s, and arguably all of sports most heated civil war: Lakers vs. Clippers. Unique in that they are one of American pro-sports only major franchises that literally share an arena, the Lakers and Clippers have recently been jostling for much more than their fair shares of hallway space. Since the Clippers acquired a certain Chris Paul after his trade to a certain Laker team was vetoed by commissioner Stern, Los Angeles basketball fans have had good reasons to reassess their NBA allegiances. Laker fans might be looking to abandon ship, while Clipper fans are queuing up a long line for what they hope is a relaxing Caribbean cruise. For the first time since Darius Miles had knee ligaments, it really might be hip to clip. Wednesday nights game will mark the 4th meeting between the two squads since Paul’s arrival in LA, with two of them coming in the pre-season and the Clippers leading the series so far 3-0. Never has a game between these two been surrounded with as much buzz and hype. While Pacific Division standings is what’s ultimately at stake here, the sway of fan loyalty from one locker room to the next is what this season is really about in Los Angeles
Cooler to follow the Clips? We know, this is still too new and radical of an idea to consider for now, but so was the notion of a round Earth once. But this is not about the past, but the present and future of these two Los Angeles franchises. Closet Clipper fans are now out and of abundance, flaunting their colors and hard at work recruiting new members to “Clipper Nation” with their anecdotes on the nightly “alley-oops”, the team chemistry, or how their team has too many quality point guards. Hey, that sounds fun! Things that are all too foreign to the Laker fan. Those Laker fans? They’re in the annual crisis mode that accompanies their teams habitually lackluster regular season play. The panic that comes with watching an offense that’s static, a defense that merely imitates effort, and the over exhaustion of their 33 year old superstar who is hell bent on scoring 40 every night. Hey, that doesn’t sound fun. The Lakers play seemingly uninspired while the Clippers play seems to inspire awe every night, earning them nicknames like “Lob City” and “Lob Angeles”. The Clippers future potential is apparent and has experts gushing, causing some (like ESPN’s Chris Brousard) to tab the Clips as the Western Conferences best team, this year. The Lakers are conversely in a funk. A culture which is harboring the start of a new era, while simultaneously preparing to end an old one as diplomatically as possible (unless you ask Lamar Odom). With the way both teams are currently constructed, the Lakers and Clippers are headed in opposite directions, and Los Angeles basketball enthusiasts have decisions to make about their fanhood.
While still early, these two Hollywood scripts indeed seem to be flipping, and why not? The underdog needs its day in the sun too. In a week that has seen younger brother Eli Manning finally being considered on the same pedestal as older brother Peyton, it’s fitting that the Laker’s perennial little brother, the Clips, are on the verge of outgrowing that shadow themselves. A rivalry with the Clippers and a fleeting allegiance is new to the Lakers, and usually beneath them. But tonight’s game will resonate with fans all the way up to their last regular season game against each other in April. For the first time in human history, it might make logical sense to be a Clipper fan.