warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Battle For Los Angeles: Jerry Buss, Trade Deadline & The Playoff Push

Andrew Seah |
February 22, 2013 | 10:30 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

The man, the enigma, Dwight Howard (Physical Flaws/Flickr)
The man, the enigma, Dwight Howard (Physical Flaws/Flickr)
This is a new weekly NBA column summarizing the weekly perfomances of the two teams in Los Angeles. Each week, we will focus on prominent storylines regarding both teams, bring to attention lesser-known factoids and hopefully provide a fun, insightful perspective for the remainder of the season.

Los Angeles Lakers (28-29)

This Week's Record: 3-0

Snapshot: Three victories, no losses, and now a game within .500. The dark cloud that is Jerry Buss' death may loom for weeks to come, but the Lakers have to use this as fuel for their late, late playoff push. 

The Newsworthy: 

-- The legendary, celebrated championship-laden tenure of Dr. Jerry Buss has officially come to an end. Buss gave so much to both the Lakers franchise and the league. The torch has now been passed to Jim Buss, but right now is the time to remember the great man's legacy

-- After their abomination at TD Garden on Feb. 7, the Lakers made sure not to embarrass themselves, not in the least because they paid tribute to their late owner right before taking the court against the arch-rivals. This wasn't a moral victory, or another victory in the 82-game grind; this was their sending-off gift, and losing was never an option. 

--  A reminder that historic milestones, much like life, is rarely picture-perfect. A Steve Nash-to-Howard alley-oop would be the exclamation mark to the former Sun surpassing Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time NBA assist list. Except that it wasn't, and the momentous assist came in the form of an awkward Antawn Jamison flip shot. 

-- Trade deadline in a nutshell: Lakers stand pat, stick to their guns. Their inaction was as judicious as their playoff spot is precipitious. With the whirlwind that has been this season, the front office did the right thing and set up camp in the eye of the storm. Not that they had a more viable alternative; they were never going to get equal value for Gasol and, given that continuity has long been preached as their imperative need (especially if they want to make it to the playoffs), the least advisable move would be to jeopardize that via another roster upheaval. 

-- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is a master of deadpan and a fellow "Zen" practitioner. As the trade deadline drew nearer, it felt as if the media needed hourly reassurances that neither of the team's star big men would be moved. Even growing children craved less affirmation from their mothers. Kupchak, practiced in the art of banal repetition, obliged them at every turn. 

-- The All-Star weekend gave us two things: the official breakout of Kyrie Irving and a Dwight Howard double feature - as if Howard's image needed to take another hit. First, a report (that should be taken with several pinches of salt) detailing a locker-room incident in which the Laker center mocked his fellow teammate and All-Star shooting guard. Hot on its heels, an episode guest-starring San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Even in a candid setting, Howard's aloofness continues to raise eyebrows. 

-- Time is running out for the Lakers. Unfortunately for them, they have a greater foe: James Harden. Houston currently holds the final playoff spot and is 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers. Their All-Star shooting guard is playing at an obscenely high level and almost single-handedly willed his Rockets to victory over his former running mates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. This is going to come down to the wire, and if it does, Los Angeles will rue its inferior 1-2 head-to-record. 

The band is back together for at least this season (Fido/Flickr)
The band is back together for at least this season (Fido/Flickr)
Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)

This Week's Record: 1-1

Snapshot: A convincing victory over the Utah Jazz could not mask the unmistakeable stain that San Antonio left on the Clippers homecourt. All season long, the Clippers have straddled the line between pretender and contender. Their latest loss to the Spurs raises questions, and reinstates them as Western Conference underdogs - which could benefit them. 

The Newsworthy: 

-- Trade deadline in a nutshell: Clippers stand pat, stick to their guns. As much as we know, Kevin Garnett was a Chris Paul intervention away from becoming a Clipper (although he has a no-trade clause and could veto it at the last minute). Valid arguments could be made for both trading for the veteran All-Star and keeping the upside-laden duo of DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. The former would be the proverbial 'all-in' move, while the latter is probably a safer bet that strikes a balance between long-term sensibility and the Clippers' current championship aspirations. 

-- One heartening takeaway from this is Paul's dedication to make things work in Clipperland. As it stands, the 2013 All-Star Game MVP can still leave Los Angeles after this season, but there are promising signs that he'd prefer not to. It is no certainty, but between the youth and veteran presence on the roster, this team will only get better and Paul seems to know it. 

-- The Clippers were utterly outclassed on their home court by the brutally efficient Spurs machine. Where their offense stuttered, the Spurs' hummed. Where they miscommunicated, the Spurs didn't even have another frequency. Lost in the Clippers' in-season ascendency to contender status is the oft-forgotten fact that the bulk of the team was brought together this year. This was a painful, necessary reminder.

-- On that note: with playoff match-ups now the biggest overarching concern for the remainder of the season, their loss to San Antonio should not be viewed in a vacuum. The two sides could potentially meet in the Western Conference semi-finals. This game, coupled with last season's sweep at the hands of the Spurs, highlights a major concern in their matchups: the ineffectiveness of Chris Paul. San Antonio simply has Paul's number. The eye-test discloses CP3's struggle to score and the Spurs' defense's uncanny ability to funnel CP3 into inefficient scenarios or to give up the rock. The statistics back this up: Paul's numbers - points, assists, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage - are all down across the board. They effectively render an all-world superstar into a borderline All-Star, and the difference is more than deadly. 

-- Whether it was Danny Green, Tony Parker or even Patty Mills, the Spurs guards cut hard and fast, and were rewarded time and again with easy buckets. It is a two-way relationship, as reliant on the their big man's excellent passing skills and sense of timing as it was on their guards' efforts. Blake Griffin may not share the post-up patience of Tim Duncan, but he is close in terms of passing awareness. We have seen coach Del Negro leverage on that skillset when Paul was injured, and it deserves to be explored further to diversify the Clippers offense. 

-- In the win over the Utah Jazz, Lamar Odom scored 18 points, reaching double digits for the first time since December 15 when he totaled 10 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. It is no surprise given that Odom is averaging a career-worst 3.9 points per game. What is surprising though, is his general lack of efficiency across the board. He's barely shooting 40 percent and failing to impact the game the way a versatile forward like himself should. The Clippers brass presumably didn't bank on a game-changing point forward circa 2010 when they signed him, but the fall has been so drastic that it begs the question whether their faith in him has been misplaced. 

Reach Staff Writer Andrew Seah here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.