NBA Rundown: A rivalry worthy of Hollywood growing in Los Angeles, Golden State Warriors return to reality and more
Bits and bobs from the first week of the NBA, including the blossoming Lakers-Clippers rivalry, Warriors in dire straits and more.
The title-less Clippers have forever lived in the shadow of the storied Lois Angeles Lakers. But this season that equation is likely to change.
The first three games of the retooled Clippers have given enough indication to the rest of the league that they are not just good on paper.
Warriors lost their opener to the Clippers by a 122-141 scoreline. Then they were handed a chastening 92-140 defeat by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
LeBron James tried downplaying it.
"I disagree on how big of a test it was. It's the first game," James said as reporters asked him about Lakers-Clippers becoming an equal rivalry at long last after James’ side lost 102-112 in the first game of the season. "Obviously the NBA is back, and that's what everyone is trying to do, (start) the narrative of a rivalry and a huge test. Both teams are not who they want to be... It's not a rivalry."
Clippers’ Lou Williams, who had donned the Lakers colours from 2015 to 2017, had already given his verdict a day before the season opener. “It's exciting for the fans; for us it's just another game. Obviously the hype is building up and it's all of this hoopla about this game. But it's just opening night for both teams. I don't think either team will put extra emphasis on it,” he had said.
The Lakers and the Clippers may downplay the rivalry, but it was still intense enough for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer to accidentally rip his shirt over as his team beat their cross-town rivals. It was serious enough for the Lakers fans in the Staples Centre, who overwhelmingly outnumbered the Clippers fans, to boo Kawhi Leonard as he addressed the venue in what was a home game for the Clippers. It was important enough for a routine James fadeaway jumper over Leonard to assume bigger context.
The title-less Clippers have forever lived in the shadow of the storied Lakers. But this season that equation is likely to change. Clippers vs Lakers is not going to be just another matchup on the NBA calendar for the next few years. Not when both franchises play their home games at the same venue, which requires the Clippers to cover up the Lakers’ Championship banners hanging from the roof. Not when the fact that California native Leonard snubbed the Lakers to join the Clippers, and dragged Paul George along with him, lingers like an elephant in the room in Los Angeles. Not when the Clippers have a better chance of becoming NBA champions than the Lakers for possibly the first time ever.
The first three games of the retooled Clippers have given enough indication to the rest of the league that the Clippers are not just good on paper.
And the Clippers have done so without the presence of their other superstar Paul George, who is to miss the opening part of the season as he’s recuperating from a shoulder surgery.
“The Clippers are who we thought they were,” tweeted Dwyane Wade echoing the thoughts of everyone who has seen the Clippers play their first two games, dismantling cross-town rivals, LA Lakers, and then thumping a weakened Golden State Warriors.
Speaking of the Warriors, they’re only now starting to realise just how much players like Kevin Durant — who’s moved on to the Brooklyn Nets — and Klay Thompson — who’s injured and is likely to miss a significant portion of this season — brought to the table. They lost their opener to the Clippers by a 122-141 scoreline.
The night was not good for Steph Curry, the superstar who will have to shoulder the burden of keeping the Warriors afloat in Playoffs contention until Thompson returns from injury ― that is if he returns this season at all.
Curry had a woeful game by his standards against the Clippers, ending the night with eight turnovers.
"This is not a one-off, this is the reality," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. "There's going to be nights like this this year. You've got to play through it, you've got to keep fighting and keep getting better. That's the plan."
He went on to add: "It doesn't feel very good. Losing stinks. It's no fun. This is more the reality of the NBA. ... The last five years we've been living in a world that isn't supposed to exist. Five years of, if I remember, the best record anybody's ever had over five years. So this is reality, nine guys 23 or younger, and we're starting over in many respects."
Warriors’ Draymond Green summed up the game in a sentence. "We f*****g sucked."
After the game, the Clippers’ Patrick Beverly reportedly told the Chase Center staff: "Ya'll a little different without KD, I see... Ya'll cheated long enough. It's okay. Ya'll had a good run. Back to reality.”
Things went from bad to worse soon as the Warriors were handed a chastening 92-140 defeat by the Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Warriors are in state of rebuild, so are the Thunder, who lost Paul George and franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook in the off-season. It was Green again who came up with a one paragraph assessment. “The reality is we f*****g suck right now... We’re just not that good right now. I don’t know what better way to frame it. I can try in Spanish, but I ain’t really that good at Spanish,” he said after the game.
For more bits and bobs from this season’s first week of the league, check out our NBA Rundown in a new format:
New York has implemented new health and safety regulations which do not allow unvaccinated athletes to take part in practices and games. Irving would need proof of at least one vaccine shot in order to practice at the Barclays Center arena.
Three-time All-Star guard Ben Simmons on Thursday night skipped the Sixers’ preseason home opener — the official status update was “not with team” — and he's now a pariah in Philly.
Under new civic health and safety rules, Wiggins would have been barred from taking part in Golden State home games if he didn't get vaccinated.