Folks in sunny southern California tend to notice when the neighbors get a snazzy new ride. Or some husband-and-wife domestic help. Or a 5-karat anything.
Bentley and Tiffany salesmen plan their kids’ college educations on it. Not just a pervasive mindset of conspicuous consumption but an avid, keeping-up-with-the-Beverly-Hills-Clampetts zeal for stuff.
But keeping up with the Clippers? This could really start to mess with minds at and around Staples Center.
If fans of the Los Angeles Lakers could, in a vacuum, resist the urge to panic over their team’s 0-3 start, fending that off when the other team in the building is unbeaten might be too much to expect. Last season, the Lakers eked out the Pacific Division crown by one game, their 41-25 just atop the Clippers’ 40-26 finish.
Finishing in front of the Clippers has been a virtual birthright – it hasn’t gone the other way since 2005-06 – but here we are with a 2012-13 schedule that’s only five days old and the “other” L.A. team is 2.5 games ahead in the standings.
More than that, the Clippers are averaging 5.7 points more than the Lakers offensively and they’re a staggering 13.5 points better defensively, yielding 93.5 so far to the Lakers’ 106.7. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest are playing with greater pace (96.4 possessions per 48 minutes to 93.2) and are pestering shooters more successfully (a 46.4 percent opponents’ effective field goal rate).
You can just hear the wailing now. Waaaa! I want that! The way things are going, we wouldn’t be surprised to catch Jack Nicholson giving Vinny Del Negro a come-hither wink.
Generally, the dynamic between the only teams in the NBA that share an arena gets chronicled in rivalry terms. And when it’s put that way, there isn’t much to compare. Beyond an occasional snide remark or an on-court moment – Paul taking offense when Pau Gasol cupped his head, Griffin sending Darius Morris flying to thwart a dunk attempt last season – the Clippers know their place. And the Lakers know they know it.
Lakers coach Mike Brown was being realistic, not smug, when asked about the relationship between the teams Friday, before the current gap between the widened:
He likened the so-called rivalry to when the Cleveland Cavaliers were trying to have a rivalry with the Boston Celtics.
“The tough part was when you would walk into the Boston building, and see I don’t know how many championship [banners],” Brown said. “That’s how you develop a rivalry, when both teams have done it.”
So for now, the rivalry terminology doesn’t fit. But at 0-3 and 2-0, something has to. How ’bout covetry?
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980.