Saturday, July 13, 2013

Freaky Friday: The LA Basketball Version

Two teams flipped sides of the spectrum over the last few years
In 2003, the movie Freaky Friday (based off the 1976 original) starred Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis played Lohan's mother, as the two switch bodies overnight. This might be the best movie analogy for what is occurring in Los Angeles right now.

In 2008, the Lakers were gift-wrapped Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies- a move that changed the Western conference over the course of the next few seasons. In 2010, the Lakers were coming off winning back-to-back championships against the Celtics and Magic. The sky was the limit it seemed for Kobe and company.

On the opposite side of town (in the same building), the Clippers were floundering. From the 2007-08 season up until the 2010-10 campaign, the team had only managed to win 30 or more games once. They posted win totals of 19, 23, 29, and 32 during those four years.

A three team trade between the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets was proposed. In it, Chris Paul would go to the Lakers and team up with Kobe to assuredly take over control of the Western Conference. Pau Gasol would have gone to Houston, and Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Lamar Odom would have gone to the Hornets. Commissioner David Stern infamously denied the trade, forcing the Lakers to find other ways to re-invent themselves.

Then on December 15th, 2011, Paul was traded to the cross-town rival Clippers. This was a huge blow to Lakers fans. They could watch CP3 in the Staples Center, but in red, white and blue. "He wasn't supposed to be on their side...he was supposed to be a Laker," fans of the purple and gold seethed.

Lob city, Mitch. Lob lob city, Mitch.
Over the next two seasons, the Lakers lost in the semi-finals of the playoffs under Phil Jackson and Mike Brown. While they went from 57 wins to 41 wins, the Clippers jumped from 40 to 56 in those two years. They re-signed big man DeAndre Jordan and were dubbed "Lob City".

The Clippers' fast break was awe-inspiring. The fact that they began making moves that made sense and were not splurging for the sake of attention of stars past their prime was refreshing for fans of Lob City. The only move that never made sense was the hiring of coach Vinnie Del Negro who rarely looked engaged during games. Management surrounded their triumvirate with role players like Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Caron Butler. The Lakers couldn't just stand by and watch their little brothers evolve without some sort of retaliation.

Hello, Summer of 2012. Lie to Lakers fans and tell them everything will be ok.

Last summer, Dwight Howard forced his way out of the Sunshine State and into the not-so-friendly confines of the Staples Center along with former Phoenix Sun point guard Steve Nash. The Lakers looked to be adding the next great big man to pair up with Bryant as Shaq/Kobe 2k12. Around them would be Nash, Gasol and Metta World Peace. So what if there was no bench? They wouldn't need it...right?


The Lakers showed their age quickly as three games in, Nash injured his leg and was out for two months. Howard himself was coming off back surgery and had nagging shoulder injuries all season. Pau Gasol battled the injury bug, too. Their starting five only played in nine games together. Along with mounting injuries came mounting tension. Kobe was at odds with Howard, and eventually tore his achilles. The team was underachieving and almost missed the playoffs- where they were trounced by the Spurs.

The Clippers, on the other hand, were in the top five all season long. They eventually fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in round 1, 4-2. While the result was disappointing overall, they still had a better season than the Lakers.

LA's D12 injection went awry.
We are all well-aware of how Howard left Tinseltown. Now the Lakers will look to the future for the first time in a while. Kobe will likely miss half if not the whole season to recover. Metta World Peace was amnestied on Thursday. Nash will be 40 years old. Pau will...well he'll just be there, but a year older and a free agent in 2014. There is no hiding from the fact that the Lakers will have  a very trying season ahead of them, one in which they'll likely get a high lottery pick and then look into the Summer of 2014 to secure a big time free agent (possibly LeBron or Carmelo).

The Clippers just traded for Doc Rivers which in turn helped retain Paul. Soon after, they added shooters JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. Throw in Matt Barnes along with Griffin, Jordan and Crawford and the Clippers look poised to be in the top four at the end of the season.

Just like that **snaps finger**, the Clippers and Lakers are on two very different ends of the NBA spectrum. The Lakers, who have come to rely on the location and name to entice many a player are wondering how they got to this point. The Clippers seemed cursed for years. Now they are just trying to keep what seemed like a fantasy years ago a firm reality.

Some might see this as freaky. I see it as a simple shift in luck and logic.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact me on Twitter @SeanNeutron

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