The battle for basketball supremacy in Los Angeles continues as the LA Clippers and LA Lakers continue to make big offseason moves to solidify their hold on the city. Personally, I think these two teams have made the biggest impact in the free agency market so far. While the Houston Rockets continue to make an effort to put together a package to bring Dwight Howard over, the Los Angeles teams have made legitimate moves to bring themselves one step closer to a championship next season.
The Clippers became relevant for the first time since their inauguration by drafting Blake Griffin and trading for Chris Paul. Along with a revitalized franchise and booming ticket sales, they have also put themselves into a position that has a chance of being a title contender for years to come. Just last season they made it all the way to the second round of the playoffs despite an assortment of injuries to key players.
For the next season their primary goal should be to retain the services of Chris Paul. He is a free agent in the 2012 market and they absolutely have to provide him with a team that he wants to continue to win with. So far, they have already conceded to letting Reggie Evans go to the Brooklyn Nets for a future second-round draft pick.
Evans was vital in their play-off run last year, stealing clutch rebounds away from the Grizzlies whenever he was on the floor. Although he was an offensive liability, his ability to grab key offensive rebounds will sorely be missed. The Clippers also bid farewell to Nick Young; a free agent this season. Young signed with the 76’ers and will be bringing his 3-point shooting to Philly. Finally, they chose to trade Mo Williams in a multi-team trade that ultimately yielded Lamar Odom.
What do I think of Lamar Odom?
Disappointing comes to mind. Oh and spineless. Lamar Odom was absolutely terrible for the Mavericks last season, posting career lows in every single significant statistical category. A combination of personal issues and self-pity resulted in the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year flaming out and being sent home by the Mavericks while still on payroll. That’s how bad he was.
Now the Clippers take a chance by acquiring the versatile 6’10 power forward in hopes that returning to Los Angeles will revitalize his career. I would love to analyse the team and think of how great it would be to have such a versatile player play off of Chris Paul and feed lobs to Blake Griffin but I’m not going to pin too much hope on Odom.
By retaining the services of Chauncey Billups the Clippers still have a solid 1-2 punch at the point-guard position provided that he bounces back from his season-ending injury to his Achilles tendon. I have faith in Billups though because he never thrived off of his athleticism and he’ll still be able to stroke that pretty 3-point shot. Their final move was to sign Jamal Crawford to a large 22 million dollar contract over 4 years.
It seems to me that the Clippers are really making a run at their offensive game while leaving little on the defensive end. While Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan will get you those supporting stats, it’s hard to see 32 year-old Jamal Crawford and 35 year-old Chauncey Billups offering any sort of significant defensive contributions.
Ultimately, I think it all falls down to Lamar Odom. If he can play the way that we expect him to play with such a talented group of players the Clippers will build on their breakout season.
On the other end of the city, the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the basketball world by signing veteran point guard Steve Nash. The ageless one will bring his magical ball-handling skills and inability to D up to the city of purple and hold next season. It will be very interesting to see how Nash and Kobe Bryant will co-exist on the court as both players will need the ball in their hands at all times to truly maximize their potentials.
The Lakers are also heavily invested in acquiring Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic by trying to put together a package deal that includes Andrew Bynum. The Lakers are one of many teams trying to bring in the new Superman, but will Dwight want to play for the Lakers? Probably not because he’ll be following the footsteps of another great centre, Shaquille O’Neal.
Dwight Howard wants to create his own legacy. Nothing would tarnish it more than to follow the blueprint for success that O’Neal laid down so many years ago. Although the Lakers may make a trade for Howard, don’t expect Howard to be there in 2013.
Even without Howard the Lakers are still filled with All-Star calibre talent. With Nash and Bryant running the guard positions and Pau Gasol paired with Andrew Bynum in the front court this team’s starting line-up will truly be something to fear. Yet therein also lies their greatest weakness. Without any depth the Lakers will have to rely on their starters for over 40 minutes per game, every game. Instead of trying to sign big name agents they should start looking to build a deeper team not a famous team.