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Is there any room left in L.A. for the Lakers?

T.J. SIMERS

The Clippers' trade for Chris Paul may not make them better than the Lakers but it certainly makes them more interesting.

December 14, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Kobe Bryant, left, and the Lakers may still be better, but the Clippers are generating more buzz heading into the season following Wednesday's trade for New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.
Kobe Bryant, left, and the Lakers may still be better, but the Clippers are… (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters )

The Clippers now have put pressure on the Lakers, and how funny a sentence is that?

They have become the talk of the town, exciting and packed with all kinds of promise, while it's the same old Lakers.

Well, not even the same old Lakers if you lose Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and Chris Paul.

"We did our best to make this trade happen," says Jim Buss, who has been working with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. "They just offered a better deal.

"But as Lakers fans know, we've always done our best to improve the team. And we will continue to do so."

PHOTOS: Clippers land All-Star Chris Paul

The Lakers are still talking Dwight Howard, but Orlando is letting everyone know it's not listening.

So here we sit, comparing the Clippers to the Lakers, and the Lakers are coming off as the losers.

Whom do the Lakers have to match the unbridled enthusiasm attached to Blake Griffin's high-flying game?

Kobe has been there and done it, but the new kid in town is fresh, and how good will he be with Paul feeding him the ball? The anticipation alone is thrilling.

Cutting through Clippers euphoria, the Lakers probably still will win more games, but there's just no buzz about them.

I don't know if it's true the Clippers had more to offer than the Lakers in trading for Paul, but right now it sure looks like the Clippers have more to offer fans looking to be entertained.

Griffin and CP3 together. Yeah, go ahead and make the case you just can't wait for Metta World Whatever to put on a show or hear what handicap spot Andrew Bynum might park in next.

The Lakers' routine in so many ways has become tiresome. In part it's because we know everything about them, as they have dominated the sports landscape here for so long.

Maybe more than anyone else, Pau Gasol embodies the lack of sizzle. He's the reason the Lakers took a championship turn the past few years, but one bad month has apparently made him trade fodder.

Who is excited here now to watch Pau play?

The Clippers have a bunch of new guys and youngsters on the climb; the Lakers have Kobe, and only the mystery on any given night whether he will be the facilitator or the ball hog.

The Lakers have a real problem, all right. And I'm not talking about ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, who was saying Wednesday night Kobe is getting older and the Lakers will be losing fans to the Clippers.

Kobe is getting older, but there's a long way to go before the Lakers start running pictures of the opposition in newspaper advertisements in the hopes of selling tickets.

The Lakers aren't the Dodgers yet. But they do miss Phil Jackson. He was the face of the franchise, and while saying nothing sometimes, his rings said enough.

He also courted controversy, nothing so big that it was bigger than he was. As long as he was with the Lakers, there was little doubt what they were aiming to accomplish.

Does anyone think they still have dead aim on another title? Just who is calling the shots here?

The new Lakers coach is just happy to be here. So far he has no presence. He's one of those "I just coach the guys I've got here" robots who eventually carry no weight with anyone.

He has yet to say anything meaningful.

A Lakers coach has to be more than that, and especially with Jim and Jerry Buss residing in the background and Kupchak so used to having Jackson and Jerry West doing the talking for him.

If the new coach doesn't take command, that leaves Kobe as team spokesman, and get ready to delete the obscenities.

Kobe said this week the team can't win a title as currently put together, and whether sarcastic or sarcastic but not lying, there's gloom hanging over the Lakers.

The giddy Clippers, meanwhile, still have to prove they can become a playoff team, but won't it be fun to watch?

Kobe playing the role of the good soldier, meanwhile, doesn't seem likely. But what can he say other than to sound sour, which isn't all that different from how he usually sounds, now that I think about it.

He can demand a trade, but only to make noise because it's not going to happen. When he had a chance to chat with Kupchak after the trade of Odom this week, Odom was barely discussed.

The Lakers desperately need leadership now and a better feeling of where they are headed.

How do you let Odom leave and replace him with nothing? There probably wasn't a Lakers fan in town upon hearing of Odom's departure who didn't think the other shoe was going to drop and it was going to be the arrival of Paul or Howard.

That was the Lakers' plan, while also saving money. They thought a draft choice might help them land Paul or Howard because that's what they were hearing from New Orleans and Orlando.

But a good plan is only one that works.

It now it appears the only thing that can put the Lakers back on the map in this Clippers town is Howard.

Someone might argue on a basketball level they don't need him as long as they have the Big Three in Kobe, Bynum and Gasol.

But how do the Lakers regain their L.A. swagger when it appears Showtime this season will be presented by the Clippers?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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