HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This whole Battle-for-L.A. thing is infinitely much tougher to make happen when no one wants to own up to it being a real rivalry.
The Los Angeles Lakers have treated this rivalry talk like the plague since it started, when Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin and the Clippers at the start of this season. And now the Clippers are dismissing any notion of their being a rivalry with their Staples Center co-tenants.
That makes it extremely difficult to drum up some good ol’ fashioned bad blood between these two in advance of tonight’s matchup (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN). It’s nearly impossible when they say things like this (courtesy of our main man Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times):
“Honestly, I don’t think it is one (a rivalry),” center DeAndre Jordan said. “But I’m not worried about any other team. I don’t care about them. I respect them as a team and as players. Once we step in between that line, I could care less about any accomplishments they have.”
“It’s not really a rivalry,” Griffin said. “It’s a game between two teams that play in the same city, play in the same building. It’s just another game.”
“It’s another big game for us,” Paul said. “We’ve got some momentum going. It’s one of those games that we want to win.”
“We don’t make too much of it,” Paul said. “First of all, it’s been so long ago that we played them. We’re two totally different teams. I don’t even remember that last game too much. But it’s obviously a big game” Wednesday.
That’s all fine and dandy. We don’t actually need much kindling for this fire anyway.
We could just point to their previous meetings this season for proof that what the Lakers and Clippers say and how they react to each other on the court are diametrically opposed. Round 1 was good and Round 2 might have been better. (And let’s not forget two pretty good — if insignificant — preseason matchups, too.)
If it looks, smells and feels like a rivalry (I don’t care if the banner count is 100-0) … then we’ll classify it as just that, if for no other reason that to satisfy our own nostalgic urgings.
And Jordan did give in just a little bit when he said:
“We’re not going to back down to anybody,” Jordan said. “We’re going to stand up to the challenge. It’s going to be a physical game. It’s going to be some talking in the game. We’re not going to back down to anybody, whether it’s the worst team in the league or the best team in the league. That’s how we are going to get better.”
And that’s how we’ll enjoy our Wednesday night, watching these two non-rivals go nose-to-nose on the big stage and do their best acting job of the season. Because remember … this is just another game!