The Lakers are 11-24 and on pace for a franchise worst record this season. The Clippers are 23-12. If you’ve been paying even vague attention for the past few years we are clearly in a swing of the pendulum when the Clippers are one of the NBA’s better franchises and the Lakers are… rebuilding. To put it kindly.
Nick Young doesn’t see it that way.
He was with the Clippers for 22 games back in 2011-12, a year the Clippers made the second round of the playoffs. Young has spent the last two seasons with the Lakers, not coming close to the playoffs.
But he said this in comparing the franchises, with the two teams are set to meet Wednesday night, as reported by Bill Oram of the Orange County Register (hat tip to Eye on Basketball).
“Being a Laker, there’s nothing like it,” Young said. “I think I learn more just being here and being around an atmosphere of winning, toughness and learning how to play under a great player like Kobe (Bryant).”
Atmosphere of winning?
We listed the numbers above, right? The Lakers are 38-79 since Young joined the squad.
Lakers fans will jump into the comments below spouting their Lakers exceptionalism — the brand is about winning the Buss family is about winning, Kobe Bryant is all about winning, look at the banners, yada yada yada. That is what the Lakers have sold for years. I will grant you that Dr. Jerry Buss was an exceptional owner who built a culture of winning, one of professionalism throughout the organization. Jim and Jeanie Buss are trying to carry on that legacy, how things are going is up for debate (I think it’s far too early to judge them).
The problem for the Lakers is that the moves to flatten out the NBA talent base in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement were essentially aimed right at them, trying to cut them off at the knees. The methods they used to rebuild and restock in the past will be much more difficult to execute now — nobody is giving an NBA Championship team the No. 1 overall pick the next year so they can snap up James Worthy again. The Lakers can’t just outbid teams for the top free agents because they have the money.
It’s going to take far more crafty, far more patient ownership to rebuild the team this time around. Los Angeles is still a draw, the Lakers brand and fan base are still draws, but the market has changed. The question we will see the answer to over the next few years is have the Lakers adapted to the new reality?
As for the Clippers, well, Young was there during the Donald Sterling era. It’s far too early to judge what kind of an owner Steve Ballmer will be, but I will guarantee he’s better than Sterling.