Hello CN--please welcome to the staff Taylor Smith. Taylor's a California native, and a long-time Clippers fan, who also writes at The Friendly Bounce on the HP network. He's also written about the Clippers on smaller stages around the web. I'm ecstatic to have him writing short form and game coverage for us this season. --Lucas
The notion that no true rivalry exists between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers is a fairly commonly-shared view throughout the basketball community. After all, the Lakers have won 16 NBA titles, while the Clippers have yet to even reach a Conference Finals in their 44-year history. Since the Clips moved to L.A. prior to the 1984-85 season, the two teams have appeared in the playoffs in the same year a grand total of six times, and have never faced one another in a postseason series.
As far as the regular season goes, the Clippers have taken the season series from their intra-city rivals just four times in the last 30 seasons, including each of the last three. Considering your standard rivalry typically involves a healthy back-and-forth between the clubs involved, tabbing Lakers-Clippers as a "rivalry" is a bit of a disservice to real rivalries. The history between the teams is about as one-sided as it gets.
However, with momentum having swung heavily in the Clippers' favor in recent years, perhaps we've finally reached the fledgling stages of a real Los Angeles basketball rivalry. The Lakers (on paper, at least) have the makings of a decent young core of players, so perhaps they're on the rise again?
One of those young Lakers is second-year forward Julius Randle, who said the upcoming season's Christmas Day matchup between the teams will be for "bragging rights" (via TWC SportsNet):
"Any game that the Lakers play in is a big game. You know, we always obviously have that championship mentality no matter what game it is. The Clippers are just another game for us, but obviously that's kind of a bragging rights game."
In the same video, we also hear from Lakers coach Byron Scott, who, while claiming he is excited to face the Clippers on Christmas, also maintains his stance that it isn't a rivalry until "both teams are good".
The Clips have taken 11 of the last 12 meetings between the teams, including a four-game sweep last year. So, per Randle's logic, I suppose you could say the Clippers are the current holders of the all-important Los Angeles Basketball Bragging Rights.
There are other embers currently in place that could help spark a rivalry this season, as well. Chris Paul, of course, would likely be Laker property right now had David Stern not infamously nixed his trade from New Orleans back in 2010. Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers won a title together with the hated Celtics in 2008 at the Lakers' expense. And, most recently, Laker legend Wesley Johnson decided to make the across-the-hall trek to join the Clippers this past summer.
As we head into the upcoming season, the Clippers have seemingly addressed the depth issues that plagued them a year ago, while the Lakers may have found their next star attraction in rookie guard D'Angelo Russell. So, will this be the year that we can (finally) call Clippers-Lakers an actual rivalry? Or are the Lakers lottery-bound once again?
While it would be pretty exciting for both teams to be good at the same time, I'm sure we'll all be quite happy to share a laugh at the expense of the Lakers and their dependance on ping pong balls for a third consecutive year.