It’s the second round of the Battle for Los Angeles. And it seems slightly more of a battle than it did a week ago as the Clippers are struggling through a four-game in five-nights schedule. For the national perspective, ESPN.com has Adande and Arnovitz in the Clippers/Lakers 5-on-5.
1. The Lakers are struggling because of their ____.
Fred Katz: Bench. Antawn Jamison isn’t as efficient as the Lakers hoped (and he can’t play small forward like they tried early in the season). Meanwhile, Jodie Meeks might be their best guy off the bench. Matt Barnes is looking good right about now.
Jovan Buha: Defense. The Lakers have the 18th ranked defense and struggle in almost every facet on that end. Dwight Howard, their rim-protecting Picasso, is a shell of his former Orlando self. Couple that with their age, injuries, and a pace that doesn’t fit their personnel and it’s not that surprising that the Lakers have struggled thus far.
Jordan Heimer: The Lakers are struggling because they are old as s#*t. I cannot top the eloquence of the Mamba, who, by the way, has picked up nearly a quarter of a million followers just hours after joining Twitter. His first tweet: “The antisocial has become social #mambatweets.” May I add: #sick.
2. Which new addition (for either team) has been the most valuable?
Katz: Barnes. When you account for “value”, you have to consider that Dwight Howard is making $19.5 million, Steve Nash has been made of glass, and Jamal Crawford is on a four-year, $21.3 million contract that will take him through age 36. With that in mind, getting Barnes for the veteran’s minimum sounds pretty darn nice.
Buha: Matt Barnes. Not only has he been the best bargain money-wise, but he’s simply been the best player out of the new editions. Over the last 15 games, he’s averaged 13.7 points on 55.2 percent shooting and 42.4 percent on 3s. Howard and Nash affect the Lakers’ lineups marginally; the results haven’t been as advertised. And Crawford, while a potent scorer, is a below-average defender.
Heimer: Matt Barnes. It’s not just that the Clippers force so many turnovers thanks largely to their theft-happy point guards, it’s that those steals are converted into fast break baskets at such a startlingly high percentage. Matt Barnes has credited his prowess in transition to skills he aquired as a high school wide receiver. He runs great routes and he’s playing with a great QB.
3. More likely to win a championship: Lakers or Clippers?
Katz: Clippers. I fully believe the Lakers are capable of turning the season around, but if they do make the postseason, they probably will have to win four straight series without home-court advantage. That’s pretty tough to do. Advantage: Clippers.
Buha: The Clippers, at least in terms of this season and the next few years. The Lakers, of course, always have a trick up their sleeves and have a knack for drawing the league’s top talent. So I don’t expect this to stay one-sided for long. But until the Lakers start playing like championship contenders, the Clippers are the only title threat in L.A.
Heimer: Clippers. Remove the histories of the respective franchises and the happenstance of their shared hometown and this question doesn’t even make sense. Here’s an equally good question, also pulled from tonight’s schedule: Who’s more likely to win a championship: The 76ers or the Thunder?