We now know that the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers will play against each other both on the opening night of the season and on Christmas Day. But no matter when the two teams meet for their other two inter-division match-ups, it’s going to be must-see basketball because of all the dynamics going into it.
For one, you have Kawhi Leonard picking Paul George and the Clippers over LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers in free agency. Then you add in that both teams are contenders who share an arena, full of competitive guys who won’t want to lose a season series to their hallway neighbor in previews of a potential Western Conference Finals, and yeah, this is going to be fun to watch.
And according to Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, it’s going to be fun to be a part of too. Cari Champion of ESPN asked Kuzma about Leonard choosing the Clippers over the Lakers, and rather than sounding broken up about missing out on Leonard, the ever-competitive Kuzma just sounded psyched for the rivalry to come (via ESPN):
“It’s super exciting. This is one of the best years in the league... Everything has kind of opened up, and L.A. is the center of basketball attention. Having the Clippers, with Kawhi and Paul coming there, and then obviously what we have here, it’s going to be set up for some great battles.”
Champion then asked Kuzma if he was “nervous” or “concerned” when Leonard picked the Clippers instead of creating and purple and gold super team, and Kuzma said “no” he wasn’t. Then he explained why not:
“I love competition. I love competition. Playing against great players, that’s what I like to do. I’m not scared, I mean we got some players here too.”
Kuzma is right about that. The Clippers might be favored over the Lakers a bit right now because of their depth, but the Lakers definitely have a good shot to beat them, and probably a better chance than many analysts are giving them. The Clippers still don’t have anyone to slow Davis, and if he gets rolling, it might be enough to put the Lakers over the top in any battle for L.A.
And if Kuzma has improved as a shooter as much as he says he has, then he could make it even easier on Davis to get going by making it harder for the Clippers to leave Kuzma, and making them pay if they do.
All this is still months away, but with the schedule starting to leak out bit by bit, and the players themselves so hyped for a cross-hall rivalry, it’s hard not to be just as excited as Kuzma is about the season to come.