Mix in Chris Kaman’s experience playing for both teams and his witty and on-point observations, and you have someone well versed in making sense of this Lakers-Clippers rivalry.
Everything appears on the up for the Clippers, who beat the Lakers in all four games last season by an average of 13.3 points. They hired coach Doc Rivers, who once beat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals. They acquired Chris Pal two years ago after the NBA didn’t allow the Lakers to have first dibs on him. Meanwhile, question marks surround the Lakers everywhere. When will Kobe Bryant actually practice from a torn left Achilles tendon? Will Steve Nash play Wednesday in the Lakers’ back-to-back against Golden State. Will they even make the playoffs.
Does this mean the Clippers have now taken over Los Angeles?
“I respect what they’re doing and what they’ve done, but still, they’re nothing like the Lakers,” said Kaman, who played eight seasons there. “You look up here at all the championships. They’re never going to have that. It’s never going to happen. I don’t see it.”
“There’s just something about the Lakers. The history behind everything. It just makes it that much sweeter.”
Kaman still remains bothered the Clippers traded him in a deal that landed Paul. But he’s more upset about the Clippers front office, namely former general manager Neil Olshey, not alerting him before the media reported it and feeling actual offense toward the Clippers shipping him to the New Orleans Hornets for Paul.
“He’s a winner. He proved that in New Orleans and he’s going to be a winner until he finishes his career,’ Kaman said of Paul. “He’s a great player and is one of those few guys that comes along so often that is so talented like that with his ability to change the game by himself. Any team would be honored to have a chance to grab him like they did. You can tell, it changed the culture completely.”
There’s signs everywhere beyond Paul’s arrival.
The Clippers drafted Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan beforehand. They hired Rivers. According to Kaman, the Clippers changed their mindset with their willingness to spend money.
“Before, the owner, Donald Sterling, didn’t care about winning,” Kaman said. “He cared about sharing that luxury money. I think it was all about save as much money as I can, get as much highlight players and still people will come watch. That’s what he did for a long time.”
What prompted the change?
“I don’t know if he’s getting older, I don’t want to say that out of respect, but I think he is getting older and he wants to see the fruits of his labor and he’s willing to spend some more money,” Kaman said. “The year he made that [Playa Vista] practice facility, everybody knew he was kind of turning over a new leaf and kind of going a different direction. They’ve got some great players in there now and they’re paying their players and taking good care of everybody.
“It’s changed a lot over the last 10 years that I’ve been in the league. We practiced at a community college [L.A. Southwest College] in the ’hood. It’s come a long way.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org