Unless you live in Antarctica or something, you’re probably well aware of what has transpired over the course of the last two weeks involving the Los Angeles Lakers.
Needless to say, being swept out of the second round in embarrassing fashion by a franchise with a lengthy history of playoff futility had to serve as something of a wake-up call.
65-year-old head coach Phil Jackson is expected to retire, and, outside of Kobe Bryant, there are no certainties when it comes to who will be playing in a Lakers uniform next season.
Conversely, while the little Clippers finished with a 32-50 record, they’re poised to become one of the league’s elite teams over the next decade or so, assuming they’re able to continue to build upon their current foundation.
We’ve seen several teams with good, strong bases of young talent (Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland, Atlanta, Chicago) make strong strides in the past few seasons, and all of those teams have built themselves primarily through the draft.
By virtue of having made the playoffs just once 1997, the Clips have had more than their fair share of lottery picks around which to build.
Only recently, however, has that appeared to translate into anything worth noting.
Obviously, I’m referring to the high-quality 2008 and 2009 first round selections, World Champion Eric Gordon and reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin.
Meanwhile, when you’ve enjoyed as much success as the Lakers have over the last half-decade, it’s nearly impossible to build through the draft, as you’re always choosing at the end of the first round.
The aura and luster of the Lakers certainly makes them an appealing free agent destination, and Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss have never had a problem spending money or taking risks through trade in order to help the team.
For some reason, though, this feels different. This felt A LOT like the 2004 Finals series they lost in five games at the hands of the Detroit Pistons.
After they lost that series, Phil Jackson left. Shaquille O’Neal was traded.
The team didn’t realistically compete for a championship again until Phil Jackson returned and Pau Gasol was brought in from Memphis in 2008.
This isn’t to say that the Lakers’ championship window has suddenly been slammed shut. They’ll still likely have a core group of Kobe, Gasol and Lamar Odom next season, and they’re going to get themselves the best coach available (although hiring Mike Dunleavy would be hilarious).
The Clippers need to seize the potential opportunity here.
The spectacular play of Blake Griffin helped generate some hardcore fan interest all over the league last season, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t continue to improve upon that budding popularity.
Oh, and the Lakers’ potential downfall may help out a bit, too.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.