Los Angeles’ major sporting franchises have been in a state of flux: As of late, the status quo has decidedly changed in LA. The Clippers are now the better basketball team with title aspirations, while the Lakers seem to have yet to start the process of rebuilding. There are actually serious discussions concerning whether or not the Dodgers or the Clippers have a better shot at winning it all this year, which only a couple of years ago would have seemed laughable. The Angels, who have always seemed to be the most attractive baseball franchise to play for in southern California, have found themselves stuck in mediocrity with nothing to do to alleviate this problem. The Dodgers are serious contenders to win the World Series this year, while the Angels haven’t made the playoffs in four years. So here is the state of the teams in LA.
The Los Angeles Clippers now find themselves with a 51-22 record and some serious momentum, heading into tough Western Conference playoffs. Everything turned around for the Clippers, and at the same time, may have doomed the Lakers when the Clippers were able to land MVP-caliber point guard Chris Paul in a trade that, only a few days beforehand, was vetoed for the Lakers by then-NBA commissioner David Stern. Since then, both teams have headed in opposite directions, with the Clippers now being one of the most attractive destinations for proven free-agents with title aspirations. Although the Clippers share the Staples Center with the rival Lakers, the Lakers are no longer the talk of the building, but instead it is the Clippers who seem to be going nowhere but up. The Clippers are now only two and a half games behind the Thunder for the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs, which to me and many people in LA is simply unbelievable. The Clippers were the laughingstock of LA, a distraction of you wanted to watch a professional basketball game in LA that was cheaper than the Lakers, but now they are contending with teams that have players like Kevin Durant. I applaud them, because they deserve it. They have always been the underdogs in the background in the LA sports mind, but now, as a result of a good organization and good drafting, they are now the premier basketball team in LA.
As a Lakers fan, I can honestly say that it is no use going to watch Lakers games. It’s a waste of time and money that could be spent watching a team that deserves to be cheered for like the Clippers. Ever since the Lakers owner who was responsible for the “Showtime Lakers” of the ’80s, Jerry Buss, died, the Lakers just don’t seem to have that familiar organizational savvy and knowledge. All of their moves seem to be lackluster and ill-informed, and it is apparent on court. Unlike the Clippers, the Lakers are fighting to be third worst in the Western Conference with a record of 24-48. Instead of title, or even playoff aspirations, the Lakers have NBA draft lottery aspirations.
It is sad and goes against the grain of Lakerdom, but that is to what this organization has succumbed, and they have no choice but to do so. This year’s lottery is historically deep and talented, and one of the only ways that the Lakers can have a successful rebuilding process is to draft a talented future star in this year’s draft. Otherwise, the Lakers do not seem likely to be able to lure any top of the line free agents like Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo or Lebron James. A few years ago, the situation that the Lakers have found themselves in would have seemed absurd. The Lakers never have trouble luring big name free agents to play for them, but alas, it is reality, and what makes it even worse is that the Clippers are the ones luring the free agents to LA to play for them.
The polarity of the success of Los Angeles’ two baseball teams has never reached the point that the Lakers and Clippers have, but there has been recently polarity between the Angels and Dodgers, and just like the Lakers and Clippers, the roles have been reversed. The Angels have been the most recent winner of the World Series in LA, and always had the bigger payroll in the past decade. The Dodgers always had a smaller payroll due to selfish ownership, that eventually affected the team’s success. But now, the Dodgers have the MLB’s largest payroll and legitimate title aspirations, whereas the Angels have signed big name free agents to large contracts that have become catastrophic failures and have missed the playoffs four years in a row. For the Angels, it seems that these massive contracts—like the one given to Albert Pujols for 10 years and $240 million—have not only been terrible disappointments, but have stripped the Angels farm system of much-needed prospects as a result. So with bad contracts being a tenant of the team for the foreseeable future, and no in-house options to alleviate this problem, the Angels are stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Despite all of this, the Angels still seem to be able to score large amounts of runs with a high caliber offense, but at the same time, they have no pitching depth to stop other teams from scoring just as much.
On the other hand, the Dodgers have been handing out contracts that are just as big to top tier free agents, but they’ve worked out for the team thus far. Not only that: They have one of the better farm systems in the Majors, which seems to be improving year by year. The Dodgers score a similar amount of runs as the Angels usually do, but they have one of the best pitching staffs in all of the major leagues to ensure that they win games even when their offense is not working at times.
Things have changed in LA, and it is making more exciting times in the world of sports. The NBA season is just becoming interesting as the playoffs draw nearer every day, but this time around, the familiar purple and yellow Lakers jerseys will not be present. But if you are not much for NBA basketball, the MLB season is just starting, and for LA teams, it means a fresh start.