Magazine article Newsweek

I Used to Rule the World

Magazine article Newsweek

I Used to Rule the World

Article excerpt

Byline: John Walters

It was the best of climes, it was the worst of climes. It was the age of wisdom (replacing Vinny Del Negro with Doc Rivers), it was the age of foolishness (Kobe Bryant: two years, $48.5 million, at age 35). It was the epoch of belief (the Clippers just off an 11-game win streak), it was the epoch of incredulity (the Lakers on pace to finish with their worst record since moving to Los Angeles in 1960). It was the season of CP3, it was the season of Swaggy P. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

It is a tale of one city--and two NBA franchises. It is the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a metropolis well-versed in the term tectonic shift, basketball fans are seeking terra firma as the upheaval continues at the Staples Center. The Clippers (47-20), who have never advanced to a conference finals in their 43 seasons of existence in three cities (Buffalo, San Diego and, since 1984, Los Angeles), are one of the hottest teams in the league and perhaps the most dangerous. The Lakers (22-44), who have won more NBA championships in the past 35 years (10) than anyone and are second all-time (16) behind only the Boston Celtics, are poised to finish in last place in the Western Conference.

It's Lob City and Tank City. (Chris) Paul and Pau (Gasol). Mulholland Drive and Skid Row.

The insurrection was consummated on March 6, the most recent contest between these uneasy co-tenants at the Staples Center. The Clippers pummeled the Lakers by 48 points, 142-92. It was, in terms of point differential, both the greatest victory in Clipper history and the worst loss in Laker history. "During the game, all the fans were yelling, 'It's still a Laker town,' " said Paul, the Clippers' all-star point guard and All-State pitch man. "And it is. But...it's going in the right direction."

It's still a Laker town. Mid-March, even as the Clippers were preparing to win a 10th straight game, at Utah, the local airwaves were filled with the melodrama of the purple and gold. Meanwhile, the Lakers were in the midst of a pair of home-and-homes against the league's two best teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, while being forced to start the likes of Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall and Nick "Swaggy P" Young. They had lost their last two games, at Oklahoma City and San Antonio on consecutive nights, by 29 and 34 points, respectively.

Bryant, the iconic 18-year Lakers veteran who earlier in the week announced that because of injuries he would not return to play this season, quipped, "After all these years I finally know what it feels like to be a Clipper fan."

And Clipper fans, after so many fruitless decades, finally know what it feels like to pull for the Lakers. Paul, now in his third season with the Clippers after six years with the New Orleans Hornets, is arguably the NBA's premier point guard. He leads the league in both assists (10.9 per game) and steals (2.44).

The difference this season is the emergence of not one but two starters. Center DeAndre Jordan is having a career year, leading the NBA in both rebounds (13. …

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