Does any one else remember when the Clippers were worse than the Lakers. Yeah, me too. Last year marked the first time the Clippers have dominated the Lakers by sweeping them in a season series for the first time since the Buffalo days. This turning of the tides, which Lakers fans hope is temporary, obviously stems from the Chris Paul veto and trade to the Clippers, but I am going to stop talking about that before I break my computer screen.
Last offseason, it became apparent the Clippers were coming closer and closer to becoming a contender. So Mitch Kupchak and the great late Dr. Jerry Buss worked their magic (and worked the Magic) to acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, instantly becoming the top contenders in the league and restoring their reputation as the top team in Los Angeles. We already know how that turned out.
Fast forward to now, where the Lakers are considered by most a lottery team. I think it is far too early to pass judgement on a team featuring Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash (who we have yet to really see as a Laker.) Last season they were riddled with injuries, so we never saw them at full capacity. A Nash-Pau pick and roll could be some of the best P&R we ever see, and Kobe, despite his body’s best efforts, remains Kobe. Meanwhile, the Clippers are considered to have more of a title shot than ever.
The fact is though, this Lakers team is at best a fringe playoff team and at worst a mid lottery team, although injuries could make their pick higher. We don’t know how the season will go until the games are played.
Which brings me to my point; this first game of the year can have a big impact on how the Lakers do this season. Playing against their biggest divisional rivals, a win in the first game would generate good momentum, and change the opinion that the Lakers really suck, to just the Lakers kinda suck.
Before you say beating the Clippers in their first game under Doc Rivers and new acquisitions JJ Redick and Jared Dudley would be really hard, you have to understand that would be their first game with this new coach, and with a few new key pieces. Changing their entire scheme and applying it for the first time in an NBA game won’t be easy.
That isn’t to say the Lakers will likely win. They changed most of their roster as well this offseason. But it is to say that a win in the first game would be more important than winning the first game of a normal season. The fact that they are the Lakers makes their unpromising season seem magnified to most fans. A win in the first game would prove they are still a team. A win in this game would prove they are Lakers.