I guess all Metta World Peace needed to unearth Ron Artest was to leg-headlock a Los Angeles Clipper. I guess all that was needed was a Pau Gasol pat to Chris Paul’s head to spark the ultimate hardwood civil war. I guess it’s everything that we’ve all been waiting for.
L.A. Lakers vs. L.A. Clippers. Let the headlocks and head patting begin. Finally.
For the past several weeks, the tension was marinating. It contained itself inside, like a Jack Nicholson-in-the-box toy waiting for the lever to be spun. What’s been brooding is finally alive; the L.A. Hallway Rivalry is here to live and breathe, for many years to come.
As Randy Newman would say, “I love L.A. We love it!”
This L.A. quarrel started nasty, but it took some time to develop its edge. Beginning with the trade rejection that stemmed from still-questionable “basketball reasons,” the Clippers strategically swooped in with better reasons; well, at least they were for David Stern. Then the basketball came.
Little brother Clippers embarrassed big brother Lakers with resonant victories in their first three meetings, two preseason games and one regular season game, which had writers and fans signaling an iceberg was up ahead for the purple and gold ship.
Even the famed Figueroa Hotel, long known for embracing Laker legends on their outside walls, welcomed this new “Lob City” spirit with banners of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a rather out-of-place DeAndre Jordan (I would’ve used Chauncey Billups). The Angelenos stuck in traffic on the I-10, who have a clear view of the banners, may have been taken aback by the out of the ordinary Clippers presence.
Despite the loud, jubilant cheers of little brother proclaiming victory, big brother remained silent. Perhaps big brother knows that L.A. will always be his city, one that he gifted with 11 championships (not including the five he carried with him from Minnesota). He developed a culture the celebrities found hip, one ingrained in “Showtime,” and a tradition rich with the game’s most hallowed legends. Little brother couldn’t be a threat, right?
After all, little brother had only been to the playoffs four times since 1984, the year they moved to Los Angeles from San Diego. Little bro’s history is marred with some of the NBA’s greatest lottery pick blunders. Even home games against big brother were never really home games.
But this is Hollywood. A script is always being written. The air is always changing.
In this story, the opposite of our norm reality became the new plot. Clippers owner Donald Sterling learned how to be an owner. Blake Griffin didn’t become a bust. Chris Paul came at the right time. And with it all, came relevance.
But until the evening of Jan. 25, this was still being played out too nicely. It wasn’t until big brother decided that he wanted his city back that this all got too exciting.
In a game that was part spectacular, part street fight, both teams combined for six technical fouls amid a backdrop of intense and emotional basketball. The subplots were aplenty. There was Artest (I mean, World Peace) versus Griffin, Pau versus Paul, and even Lakers forward Josh McRoberts got tossed for tangling with Clippers forward Reggie Evans.
After a rugged fourth quarter, the Lakers came out the victor. It was the first time in this new rivalry that we’ve seen a game that meant as much to the Lakers as it did to the Clippers. It was the perfect ending to a game with all the Hollywood charm. For another night, this was still the Lakers’ town.
I guess the city of Los Angeles now has two great basketball teams; both blessed with stars – one of them could be playing in June. It’s a possibility that can now be embraced. This is now a true Hollywood story.