Is Los Angeles a Clippers town now? No.

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Last year, the Clippers were the hot new girl at the party in Los Angeles. You couldn’t take your eyes off her but there was nothing serious going on, it was all flirting and fun.

Now, things are getting serious.

The Chris Paul trade has the Clippers feeling like we all thought about the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple years ago — they team is on a path to being very, very good. They have what should be the best pick-and-roll tandem in the NBA (especially if Blake Griffin did develop a more steady midrange game). We need to see them play more consistent defense, we need to see if Vinny Del Negro can get them to play that defense, we need to see DeAndre Jordan’s game mature, we need to see them bring in more depth, and we need to see if they can keep Paul beyond two years. There are still plenty of questions.

But this is a team that could be a contender soon.

Does that mean the balance of power is shifting in Los Angeles? Could the Clippers pass the Lakers and take over Los Angeles?

No.

It is possible in a few years the Clippers will be better than the Lakers on the court. Kobe Bryant has lost half a step and the Lakers are a team on the back end of their championship window. It is hard to see how they bridge to the future. Well, it’s not that hard to see how they want to — hello Dwight Howard — but whether they can get there is another thing.

But right now, the Lakers are the better team because we have seen them defend at a level good enough to win two rings and go the three straight finals. This season Mike Brown is going to have the Lakers refocus and be more physical on defense — if they become a better defensive squad they are dangerous because with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum they are going to score still whatever the offensive system. The Lakers may have taken a step back with the poor Lamar Odom trade, but they are still contenders.

There are talking heads — specifically Stephen A. Smith at ESPN — speculating Kobe Bryant is going to ask for a trade. Like he did in 2007. Kobe is not asking out unless the Lakers trade Pau Gasol back for Kwame Brown. Kobe wants to win, badly, but where does he think he can get traded he has a better shot at it? The East? Where the Bulls and Heat lurk and the Knicks are improving? You think the Lakers would trade him in the West? You think they would trade him at all? No, Kobe is a Laker.

Los Angeles is a Lakers town and the Clippers are not taking that away. Fair weather Angelinos may flirt with the Clippers, but their heart is with the Lakers. In a transient city like Los Angeles, the Lakers are the one thing that is generational — your grandfather watched Jerry West, your father watched Magic Johnson and you grew up on Kobe. There is no NFL to pass down generation to generation, and the Dodgers have had a series of owners one worse than the next. The Lakers just keep on winning and doing it with the star power you need in L.A. They are the biggest sports brand in the city far and away.

This is a Lakers town, and unless the Clippers are good for a decade (under an owner who has sabotaged every good opportunity that franchise has had for decades) while Jim Buss runs the good ship Lakers into the ground that is not changing.

Los Angeles is a Lakers town. But that doesn’t mean flirting with he new girl isn’t going to be fun.

NBA makes it official, moves up free agency six hours to 6 p.m. June 30 (Eastern)

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I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.

There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.

Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.

This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.

Now we know what time the wild times start.

Why does Kevin Durant respond on social media? “I’m qualified to talk about basketball”

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Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.

Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.

Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.

“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”

Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.

Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?

LeBron likes Instagram of Kyrie Irving in Lakers jersey, Internet goes berserk

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The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)

Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.

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I like how this feels

A post shared by Savage Season 365 (@cuffsthelegend) on

(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)

Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.

Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:

• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.

• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.

 

Jeremy Lin: Milwaukee security guard asked for my pass to Raptors team bus

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Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.

It apparently still happens.

Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:

After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”

This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.

It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.