No matter what happens on the court, it’s hard to imagine the Clippers ever overtaking the Lakers as Los Angeles’ basketball darling. Unsurprisingly, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer isn’t so thrilled about that, especially considering his franchise has won 50 or more games in five straight seasons (granted, the first two were under former owner Donald Sterling).
Even though the Clippers won nearly twice as many games as the Lakers this season, they barely edged out their Staples Center fellows in attendance. Ballmer spoke to Business Insider about his franchise’s reputation in L.A., and he didn’t shy away from mentioning the Clippers’ on-court superiority in recent times:
“So look. I’ll say two things. No. 1, we’ve been kicking the Lakers’ a– the last several years. Let’s just face it. We don’t have the championships that the Lakers do. We don’t have any of that. But in the world of sports it’s, ‘What did you do this season?’ And all we can control is how we do this season, next game, next game, and I’m proud of what we’re doing.
“Ok, yeah, we didn’t have a championship 15 years ago but we’re doing well.
“But our ultimate goal isn’t to to beat one other team. It’s to beat 29 other teams. If you tell me you were the top team in LA, but the 28th team in the league, I say to heck with that.
“So in a sense, the best way to beat the Lakers is also to be the No. 1 team in the world and that’s what we’re aspiring to do.”
It’s true. The last six seasons have been the Clippers’ heyday as a franchise, even though they have never finished higher than third in the West nor reached the Western Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, the Lakers haven’t won more than 27 games in the last four seasons. So yeah, the Clippers have unarguably been doing much better on the court recently. But that could be changing soon anyway.
The Clippers could lose star point guard Chris Paul this offseason (not to mention power forward Blake Griffin and sharpshooter JJ Redick), and the Lakers are rebuilding in a big way. The Lakers already have a talented young core with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. In a few weeks, they’ll also pick second in the 2017 NBA Draft. There’s also a very solid chance they’ll acquire Pacers star Paul George somewhere down the line.
Who knows if the youth will translate their talent to wins right away, but the Lakers certainly possess a bright future — much brighter than the Clippers’ long-term, even if LAC holds onto Paul and can compete for a top three spot in the West short-term.
So what Ballmer said is true, but he should savor the Clippers’ superiority while it lasts.