Saturday, January 5, 2013

LA Clippers/Lakers

The Clippers just beat the Lakers -- again. Despite the purple and gold crew having shelled out Pentagon type money to acquire a couple free agents, the Lakers can't seem to find their way to the .500 mark, and now find themselves over 10 games behind those same Clips, who are cruising along with the beat record in the league. Who would have thought it possible -- just a couple years ago?

The Lakers have always been about "showtime". Whether it was the actual premier players that seemed to come in a never-ending supply to LA-LA Land, to the glitterati that were in attendance at the games -- the Lakers were a must see. Their list of superstars and championships is long. Even owner Jerry Buss has been known to sit in on high-stakes poker games with some of the best professional card sharks in the world.

Conversely, the LA Clippers have been known as sad-sacks of the league since forever. Not long ago, they remained the punch line of many a joke for comedians. Their owner Donald Tokowitz, the son of Jewish immigrants (he legally added the name "Sterling" later) was known for being a cheapskate. The "other" Donald seemed to be in a never-ending penny-ante game of "go fish".

Watching a Clippers/Lakers game is chock full of irony. After all, they share the same arena, the Staples Center in LA. Technically, one of them has to be the home team, and the other the visitor. They both have their own "home" locker rooms, so nothing changes there. Whether it's true or not, yours truly knoweth not, but I was once told the Staples Center has 11, count em, 11 locker rooms. If so, good grief, who can they all be for? Sure, a true visiting team from another city would warrant their own, but what about the other 8? Well OK, the refs probably get a little one. Does Jack Nicholson have his own? The cheerleaders? Magic or Kareem when they're in town? Maybe Kobe has 2 or 3 for his entourage. When free agents like Dwight Howard, Pao Gasol and Steve Nash signed on, was their own locker room included as part of their contracts? Beats me, but 11 sounds like WAY too many.

What's even weirder is the court itself. When the Lakers and Clippers play against each other, how the hardwood is decorated all depends on which team is the "home" team. If it's Kobe and Co., the middle of the court will feature a giant decal that says "Lakers", and the "paint" from the free throw line to the basket will be painted yellow. If Blake Griffin and the Clips are the "home" team, the giant decal will say "Clippers", and the same "lanes" will be blue. If they play back-to-back games, "home and home", if you will, even though nobody's gone anywhere, somebody's busy changing all that stuff. How dumb is that?

It's the same damn court, with the same teams occupying the same locker rooms they have for years. Why not just put a giant "Los Angeles" decal in the middle of the court and be done with it? The free throw lanes? What do you get when you mix yellow and blue? Paint them green and be done with that too. Or paint them pink, or black, or chartreuse, or whatever. Who cares what color they are anyway? HELLO?

Hard telling how the season will play out, let alone what will happen in the playoffs. But right now, with the Clips tearing it up and the Lakers limping along, that little corner of the sports world has been turned upside down. This is not supposed to happen. The Lakers have historically been a marquis team that draws sell-out crowds wherever they go. Nobody went out of their way to see the
Clippers come to town to face their home team.

Though they won't come out and say so -- the media wants to see the Lakers win. Countless deep-pocketed sponsors want the Lakers to win. Celebrities and politicians galore want the Lakers to win. And trust me, TV network executives want the Lakers to win. The ratings thing. All is right in the world when the Lakers win.

Yet now, despite the recent typical "blockbuster" free agent signings, the lights seem to be dimming rapidly on "showtime". Not only are they getting beat by teams they would have crushed in the past, they've become the "little brother" in their own building.

Who would have thunk it?

But it's real. The Clips are not only good, but they're young and will likely get better. Besides a couple superstars of their own, they've got that magical thing called chemistry -- and a great coach -- Vinny del Negro -- that doesn't care about the limelight. He just quietly goes about his game strategy and gets it done. The Lakers seem to have a bunch of divas that are all talented in their own way, but can't seem to come together and function as a unit. By most accounts, their new coach, Mark D-Antoni is a funny guy. The players love him, but he quickly took a back seat to the ever-present super-sized egos on his team, and they don't appear to have a clue what's coming next -- other than Kobe taking 40 or 50 shots a game, while clueless himself when it comes to playing any sort of defense. The Lakers seem to miss the Zen Master, Phil Jackson. He was a high-profile guy himself, who loved the limelight, but improbably, somehow it worked.

Bottom line? They need to decide how the court at Staples Center is going to look, and stick to it. And if they have that many locker rooms, they should donate a few to worthy causes. Like the Boy/Girl scouts, or the Humane Society. Lord knows there's plenty of dogs running around LA. Why not put them up in nice digs? How about the Campfire Girls? Who's going to notice one more fire in LA anyway?  Perhaps the Rotary Club? No, that's for fired head coaches going to another team. They'll be getting a new locker room anyway. Bad idea. Forget that. The Lions' Club? Don't even get me started on that one. Still, it seems like there ought to be a better way to make use of all those facilities.

In the meantime, excuse me for being a wrong-thinker -- but I love it when Blake dunks on Kobe.

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