The Lakers were underdogs last night against the Clippers for good reasons: The Lakers were on the second night of a back-to-back having traveled in from Sacramento (and a close game, so guys played deep into the fourth), and they were without LeBron James.
Plus, the Clippers are good. Their net rating this season (+1.6) is basically even with the Lakers (+1.8).
Some Lakers fans couldn’t get their head around all of that and booed their team after Friday night’s 118-107 loss to their Staples Center roommates (the Lakers did give up an ugly 22-0 run in the second half).
Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell — he of the awesome Kamakazi-style tied off headband who had a dozen points off the bench and remains near the front of the Sixth Man of the Year conversation — was waiving his arms encouraging the boos after the game. Then he went on a rant demanding some respect after the game, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“I love it,” Harrell said of hearing the boos. “Because they already don’t recognize us as a so-called L.A. team, but we don’t really care about that. But we want y’all to know that we’re the LA Clippers. That means Los Angeles Clippers, man. So there’s two teams in L.A.
“Y’all try to overlook us, just because of everybody in that purple and gold and the history of it. Yeah, I respect that. But that don’t mean s— to me. Excuse my French — that don’t mean nothing to me. I come out here and play for the guys that I am on the floor with. At the end of the day, y’all gonna have to recognize us, man. We are going to make you understand who we are.”
The Clippers deserve respect. A team with a lot of question marks coming into the season — mostly about health, but also the roster fit — has answered them for coach Doc Rivers (who is in the Coach of the Year conversation). Tobias Harris has quietly had an impressive season averaging 21.1 points per game with the kind of true shooting percentage (61.1) usually reserved for guys who just shoot in the paint. Danilo Gallinari has had a bounce-back season and is averaging 19.5 a night. Lou Williams is in the Sixth Man conversation (again) with Harrell, averaging 18.5 a game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been impressive as a rookie.
We could go on and on, but you get the point — the Clippers are legit. They are in the playoff mix in the crowded West (currently the four seed). They deserve respect.
But in Los Angeles, with the Lakers, they will always be “the other team.” That’s just the reality. The Lakers are Los Angeles and have too long and too deep a history in the community. Even when the Clippers are better, it will be about the Lakers in L.A.