It's strange. One would think that a long-suffering Clippers fan would be over-the-moon at the prospect of embarrassing the Lakers on national television. After all, the serendipity of having the greatest margin of victory for the Clippers and the greatest margin of defeat for the Lakers come in the same game is almost too good to be true: a confluence of vindication and schadenfreude all in one delightful 48 minute package. Could there be a more apropos summation of where these two teams are right now?
And yet I wasn't giddy watching the game last night. For one thing, it was more or less a rehash of what happened in January. The Clippers led that game 101-60 after three quarters. They led last night 109-60. My "joy at humiliating the Lakers" dial had already gone to 10, and it turns out it doesn't go to 11.
By halftime last night, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted the Clippers to play their next game, to get their seventh win in a row against the Hawks and move on to next week against the Suns and the Warriors. The Lakers were so incredibly terrible last night that there was little point in the game. I didn't even think the Clippers played well. I mean, how do you turn the ball over 10 times in a quarter and still come out with the lead? The Clippers were missing three rotation players, played as poorly as they have in weeks, and still came within seconds of a 50 point win.
As for the Lakers, I don't really see how last night represents rock-bottom any more than the trade deadline did. Consider this -- with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash hurt, the Lakers are playing a team that consists entirely of players who are likely to be elsewhere next season. TNT showed a graphic listing players under contract next season, and their were only five names on the list including Bryant and Nash, but even that was overstating the case. The contracts of Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall are not guaranteed for next season; the Lakers may keep them, they may not. They won't keep them if they have better options (which they probably won't). Nick Young has a player option, and after averaging 17 points per game this season, one assumes that he can command more than the minimum salary he's owed by the Lakers.
In all likelihood Nash will retire this summer, which means that the Lakers next season are, as of now, Kobe Bryant, a lottery pick, and .... nothing.
Bryant is signed for two more seasons, making the highest salary in the NBA, $25M per season. In other words, the one piece the organization has in place will take over 40% of the salary cap. He could have the greatest season in the history of 38 year old players and he won't be worth that money from a basketball standpoint. If last night's game did anything, it probably ensured once and for all that Pau Gasol will run as far away from the Lakers as possible this off-season, which was probably already the case.
The process of climbing back to basketball relevance will be incredibly difficult for the Lakers. But we already knew that, and their loss to the Clippers last night had no bearing on it. Reggie Miller's comments about playing for pride and representing the most storied franchise in the league were just silly. What does Marshon Brooks care about representing the Lakers? He wants a contract with an NBA team next season, period. None of the guys who played last night have guaranteed money with the Lakers next season -- they weren't playing for the name on the front of the jersey, but for the name on the back.
Steve Kerr's comments about it being an All Star game, where all the All Stars were on one side, were more telling. Or Marv Albert's comments about picking teams on the playground. If 20 guys showed up at the park to play ball, and Griffin and Gasol were named captains, it's as if Griffin was given every pick until he didn't want any more. "I get all the picks -- you can have the guys I don't want."
Let's hope the Clippers realize that few teams are going to roll over for them the way that mishmash of castoffs did last night. That they realize that making a push for a better playoff seed is going to require defense and execution, and not just highlight reel dunks, fun as they are. To say nothing or how different the postseason is going to be.
I love the symbolism of beating the Lakers by 48; I love that the franchise history section of next year's Lakers media guide will list last night's game next to the words "Worst defeat" while the Clippers version will have the same game next to "Largest margin of victory." But for now, I want the team to dominate the Hawks tomorrow and put some daylight between themselves and the Rockets and the Blazers. There's work to be done.