The Lakers and the Clippers essentially both start the season in front of their home crowd. The rebuilding Lakers host the revamped Clippers at the Staples Center. This series has become a hot ticket in L.A., but it is still too early to call this match up a rivalry. Due to previous hard-fought NBA playoff battles when it comes to rivalries; for the Clippers, 1) Memphis Grizzlies 2) Golden State Warriors 3) Lakers, in that order.
The Clippers have the pieces in place to have their best season in franchise history. The entire team has something to prove! Doc Rivers gives the Clippers championship aspirations & a coach who has been there. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are All-Stars. Paul and the Clippers need Blake Griffin to become a consistent number two scoring threat in addition to improving his footwork and offense in the post.
The same could be said for DeAndre Jordan. Specifically Jordan is a talented player with tremendous potential, but consistency is a must. The Clippers have added capable veteran shooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Doc Rivers got the team's attention upon being named head coach and during training camp and the pre-season he has gotten the team's trust. This season is about holding the players accountable.
Doc Rivers has not only revamped the roster, but it seems that he is in the process of making the Clippers more efficient on offense. In 2012 the Clippers won a lot of games with their high-flying fast break 'Lob City' offense, you will see a glimpse of that action from time to time, but for the most part that will change in 2013. Far too many times it took the Clippers too long to get into their offense and when they did they were fighting the shot clock and the opponent.
In the half court far too many times we saw the team set a ball screen for Chris Paul while the team stood around and watched his individual brilliance. In the pre-season, the Clippers displayed Princeton offense action, pinch post triangle offense action, high pick and rolls, double screens opening up shooters for wide open three-point shots. The take away is that this team will probably will not win as many games as in 2012, but will go further in the playoffs and have a more efficient offense, score more points, use better fundamentals and have themselves in better position offensively and defensively.
The Lakers start the season in the midst of a rebuilding process. The hope is that the purple and gold have the right pieces in place to make a run. The expectations for the Lakers are very low. Several odds makers have the Lakers winning anywhere from 33-41 games and not making the playoffs. Their odds of winning a championship in 2013-14 75/1! The health of Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant all returning from injury; is paramount. The Lakers will be without Kobe Bryant for the first time in since 2006.
The projection for Bryant's return from Achilles surgery was between early October and possibly as late as mid-January. The Lakers are losing far more than scoring without the services of Kobe. Steve Nash is not 100%, but will start and play 25-29 minutes. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Pau Gasol and allow him to go to work. Gasol will return to being a consistent producer of 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists a game and set the table for everyone else.
A poised Jordan Farmar will step in for Nash and have a breakout season in his return home. Farmar has improved his shot selection, raised his shooting percentage from behind the arc to the 40% range, is solid facilitator and can stay in front of quick point guards defensively. For optimum success the Lakers need a group effort with everyone in a purple and gold jersey contributing. The purple and gold need solid ball movement, excellent player movement while executing the offense to find a high percentage shot.
The Lakers biggest question heading into 2013-14 defensively – Is there a plan on defense? Last season you could never really tell, it appeared that the Lakers had no consistent plan from play to play or from game to game. This changed in the pre-season; the Lakers displayed a clear plan of attack. The purple and gold trapped the pick and roll, funneled penetration to the baseline, pressured the ball handlers and jumped passing lanes when opponents attempted cross court passes.
The Lakers need to control the tempo on offense and make it a half court game, limit their turnovers, communicate on defense. The Lakers need to play with energy, passion. The Lakers need to step up their game in all phases of their defense; transition, half-court, pick-and-roll defense and quickly rotating out to open shooters.
Lakers: S. Nash, S.Blake, N. Young, S. Williams, P.Gasol
Clippers: C. Paul, J. Redick, J. Dudley, B. Griffin, D. Jordan
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST Television -
• Los Angeles: TNT
• Los Angeles: TNT
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Los Angeles: KFWB News Talk 980 (Ralph Lawler & Michael Smith)
• Kobe Bryant (Torn Achilles) Out
• Kris Kaman (Gastroenteritis) Out
• Darren Collison (Bruised Kneecap) Day-to-Day
• Reggie Bullock (Knee) Day-to-Day
• Matt Barnes (Calf) Day-to-Day
Jeff Little is the host of "The Locker Room" a daily sports talk radio show based out of Los Angeles 6-8 pm PST www.sportsjourney.com Follow on twitter @JeffLittle32, Facebook, Pinterest