Whether or not the Lakers and Clippers have an actual rivalry isn’t just a lazy topic to fill an hour of bad sports radio anymore, it’s also something that has genuinely split the players involved all season.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard slightly stoked the flames of the cross-hall showdown at their introductory press conference as members of the Clippers, while Avery Bradley and Danny Green both said they were excited for the rivalry in their first call as Lakers. Anthony Davis reiterated that sentiment in one of his first opportunities to speak to the media after joining the Lakers, and Kyle Kuzma further echoed those words soon after.
But it’s worth noting that not everyone involved sees things the same way. LeBron James said on opening night of the season that Lakers-Clippers was “not a rivalry,” while Green later went back on his earlier statement, saying that the Lakers don’t see the Clippers as rivals.
With the NBA season looking set to resume again in a matter of months and the Lakers and Clippers widely expected to have a showdown at some point in the postseason, Alex Caruso became the latest to weigh in on whether Lakers-Clippers is a rivalry or not during his appearance on “The Lowe Post” podcast:
“I can’t speak for the rest of my team... We haven’t talked about it like that, and I don’t want to discredit how good the Clippers are, but it doesn’t really hold any extra weight for me. I think it’s more of a city thing, I think it’s more of a fan thing.
“That’s not to diminish how big of a rivalry the battle for L.A. is, just in a sense of history and how long it’s been a Clippers vs. Lakers thing. But them being as good as they are this year doesn’t add any more, I don’t know... I feel bad saying it because it’s obviously one of the biggest matchups and names in the game playing against each other, but I’m sort of robotic in the sense of ‘this is another game.’ I know what they’re gonna bring, and we gotta know what we’re gonna bring to prepare for it.”
That’s a pretty reasonable and believable answer in all honesty, especially given how even-keeled Caruso tends to be. Still, it’s hard not to notice that no matter how much they downplay it at times, both the Lakers and Clippers have seemed to play with a little extra oomph in their three matchups so far this year.
But whether they consider this a rivalry or not, Lakers-Clippers will likely be a showdown that determines which one of the two teams has a shot at the title this season (unless the NBA throws conferences out for the postseason or something similarly unforeseeable happens).
And if we get seven games of that, two things will probably be true by the end of any such series. For one, neither team will be downplaying this as a rivalry anymore, and for two, Markieff Morris recently predicting that the Lakers will “sweep” his twin brother Marcus’ Clippers will seem like tame trash talk by the end of it.