Oh boy, you guys are going to have a field day with me on this one. I’ll defend myself on ClipperBlogLive tonight, but feel free to throw things at me in the meantime. Here’s ESPN’s 5-on-5: Clippers vs Lakers edition:
Chris Paul and the Clippers will try to keep Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Lakers winless when the two teams take the court Friday night at 10:30 ET on ESPN. Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in.
1. What’s wrong with the Lakers?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: They spent so much time worrying about offense in the preseason that their defense lapsed. You never heard them even discuss it. Now it’s become the biggest issue with the team.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Nothing a defensive lobotomy couldn’t fix. Help defenders are slow, provided they even know their intended destination. Anybody with a pulse and one good hand can penetrate the paint against the Lakers. Time will rectify some of these problems, but this is not the fastest or healthiest of teams.
D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog: Nothing! Eight quarters has to be a new record time for the sky falling in Los Angeles, right? Mike Brown has never coached a team to a defensive rating worse than 13th in the league, so let’s give him a little time with the best defensive player on the planet, shall we?
Chris Palmer, ESPN.com: Let’s see, the players don’t appear comfortable with the offense, they’ve been careless with the ball, and the defense has been downright shabby. Then there’s the matter of misusing Steve Nash, who looks out of place off the ball. Bad sign: the Lakers are averaging just six fast-break points a game. They’re nowhere near on the same page.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: Popular answers are Mike Brown and the Princeton offense, but what I see is a new team that hasn’t yet found an identity. The Lakers are a work in progress on offense and aren’t showing they can play the top-level defense needed to compensate. Until one or both of those things change, expect further struggles.
2. Which L.A. team is better right now?
Adande: The Clippers. They have something that works, and they know it. And they don’t go to pieces when the second unit comes in.
Arnovitz: The Clippers look like a team that’s logged some time together. They have a lot of guys who can move the ball and quite a few who can shoot it. The defense wasn’t perfect in the opener Wednesday night, especially low, but there are clearly some defined principles at work.
Foster: The Lakers, but I suppose it depends on which Steve is running things. With Steve Nash, the Lakers have the ability to be one of the most dynamic offenses in the game so long as they actually read and react instead of taking predetermined turns. With Steve Blake? Give me the other Blake and the Clippers.
Palmer: Small sample size, but the Clippers bring more energy, have a much deeper bench and, at the moment, have fewer weaknesses. Despite a whole cast of new players, the Clippers don’t appear to have any chemistry issues like the Lakers do.
Soriano: The Clippers. They have more continuity, better on-court chemistry and a clearer understanding of how to execute their schemes. If that’s not enough, they also have a win this season — over a playoff team, no less — while the Lakers are 0-2 in games they were favored to win.
3. Which L.A. team will be better at the end of the season?
Adande: The Lakers, because they have a better chance of winning the conference finals, if they can get there. Their starters have been there before. Most of the Clippers haven’t.
Arnovitz: If the core can stay comparative healthy, the Lakers have the talent to win big series against the best opposition. Intelligent players have a way of finding solutions to problems, so most of the stuff that is plaguing them now will be addressed and long forgotten by spring.
Foster: The Lakers. They may not have the overall depth of the Clippers, but defense is the path to sustained regular-season success. Until we see the Clippers establish some sort of defensive continuity in their starting lineup, the Lakers are the safer bet.
Palmer: The Lakers, but not by much. They simply have too much talent not to be a dangerous team. Things will come together, but it will take time. But the Clips are no slouch and are faster, more athletic and have a far better bench. If they played a seven-game series right now, the Clippers would win. In May, I’d take the Lakers.
Soriano: The Lakers. The Clippers have superior depth and are more comfortable to start the season, but the Lakers’ top-end talent is better. I’ll bet on them reaching their potential by May.