Clippers vs. Lakers: If it wasn't a rivalry before, it is now

Stephen Dunn

The Clippers embarrassed the Lakers in front of the Lakers faithful on Friday night in Los Angeles. There's no longer any question as to whether or not this series is a true rivalry.

Los Angeles is a Lakers town, and anyone living in Southern California understands that.

But what happened on Friday night at Staples Center in front of 18,997 fans was no mirage, it was reality. Let's just pretend to look at this L.A. showdown through something other than the purple and gold-colored goggles that Los Angelinos tend to wear whenever the debate arises.

We all know about the 16 NBA championships and the long list of Hall-of-Famers that have donned the Lakers' uniform. Similarly, it doesn't take a long look back in the annals of NBA history to see just how bad the Clippers have been for a very long period of time.

But things change, and one of the things that has changed most recently is the culture within both franchises. The Clippers are wide-eyed and wet behind the ears -- use any cliche to describe how young and full of potential they are. The Lakers look old and lethargic.

What's worse is they look like they just don't care -- everyone but Kobe Bean Bryant, of course.

"These things take time"

There's a built-in irony in this latest mantra from the Lakers. An aging, ailing Bryant and a 38-year-old point guard along with the rest of the 30-somethings on the roster don't have a lot of time to figure things out. Bryant was combative in his defense of the Princeton offense that everyone's been so critical of through three bad losses early in the year. He was quick to point out that he knows more about basketball than most people have forgotten.

But it's difficult to forget three losses and an average of 19.3 turnovers per game.

Lakers fans don't know how to be patient (one of 50 reasons SB Nation's own Tom Ziiller says you should hate the team), so with the third consecutive bad loss on Friday comes the requisite clamoring for blowing up the team, firing the coach and changing venues.

Maybe that last one was a stretch, but in Laker-land, anything is possible.

The Clippers are better

Doesn't a rivalry have to be fairly evenly matched? For those that saw the Lakers' debacle vs. their co-tenants at Staples Center in front of their own fans, the game was anything but a fair fight. The Clippers made them look silly and exposed every weakness imaginable.

Watching the Lakers' bench try to match up with perhaps the deepest team in the league was laughable. On Friday, they were outscored 46-16. Forty-six to 16? That sounds like the score from a lopsided high school girls' game. Unfortunately for the Lakers, it was just as hard to watch.

The Clippers currently have the edge over the Lakers in the following areas: Bench scoring, perimeter defense, athleticism, continuity, ball security and youth.

If it's not a rivalry, then what is it?

How then, is it that everyone seems so hesitant to call it a rivalry? The titles and championship pedigree don't mean anything in terms of now. The Clippers are the now in Los Angeles, and if there is no rivalry as some claim, it's because they are leaps and bounds above the new-look Lakers.

Another fun term, 'new-look', has been used liberally in Southern California. But it hasn't materialized into any substance on the court.. It's been the same old result of the Lakers' bench being bad, the defense being porous and Kobe Bryant being overused.

If it's not time to hit the panic button with such a star-studded group getting man-handled by two teams they should have beaten and one they're supposed to be rivals with, then when?

It all equates to a rivalry that's not really one in the first place. But it's due to the dominance of the Clippers, and not the team that created all of the buzz this offseason by acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

That's where the Lakers are through three games, and the Clippers through two. Perhaps things will look vastly different when the teams meet next, but how can anyone count on it following such dismal performances by the Lakers?

Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are." At this stage, the 0-3 Lakers are not a good basketball team.

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