As you know we've had some themes across the SB Nation basketball blogs for the past few weeks, and this is Rivalry Week (#NBARivals on twitter).
NBA rivalries come in a few forms. The most obvious are teams that over the years have faced each other in vastly important games -- Lakers-Celtics is the best example of that type of rivalry. You have to have a pretty successful history as a franchise to have a major inter-conference rival since by definition the only important truly games you'll ever play with a team from the other conference is in the NBA Finals.
Rivalries can be geographic in nature also. Teams can be geographic rivals even if the competition has traditionally been relatively one-sided. The Clippers' rivalry with the Lakers is the best example of this.
The NBA's Conference structure, being completely geographical in nature, once again more or less precludes most rivalries between East and West. In the NFL, the Raiders and the 49ers are in different conferences, but in the same metropolitan area (St. Louis-Kansas City, Jets-Giants and many others are also examples) -- but that doesn't happen in the NBA, unless Minnesota and Milwaukee have some sort of state neighbor thing going on. Memphis and Atlanta?
Divisions further group teams with their geographical neighbors, but there's not much tangible difference between a Division rival and a Conference rival in the NBA. You're guaranteed to play Division rivals four times every year, but you play most teams in the Conference four times anyway. Then once the playoffs start, it's pretty much all about the Conference (aside from some weird Divisional seeding stuff).
For the Clippers, the intuitive answer is pretty obvious -- the Clippers' biggest rival is the Lakers. But given the history of this competition some (mostly Lakers fans) would say that it's not a rivalry at all. Still, since Blake Griffin came to town, the games have certainly taken on a higher level of intensity befitting a true rivalry, and that intensity jumped up another notch last season with Chris Paul's arrival, and it figures to remain at a high level for at least a little while. After all, the Clippers finished within a game of the Lakers in the Pacific Division standings last season and the two L.A. teams figure to be battling it out again this year.
Out of curiosity though, I wanted to see who the citizenry views as the rivals of the Clippers. The Warriors have both geography and a similarly woeful history in common with the Clippers. The Nuggets and Suns have been recent playoff rivals and games with those teams have tended to get a little nasty. Of course there was an intense playoff series with Memphis last season, a team that has some other recent history and a similar backstory. And is it wishful thinking that a rivalry might be brewing with the Thunder, a young team the Clippers might hopefully be battling in the Western Conference for years to come?
To try to tease out the information, I'm putting up a series of three polls. We'll start below with the most straightforward. Which team in the Pacific Division is the Clippers biggest rival?
I assume we already know the answer to that question, but I'm curious to see exactly how overwhelming it is. Next we'll see ask about Western Conference rivals ASIDE from the Lakers, and finally about Eastern Conference rivals (if any). Ready? Here we go.