The Lakers have added center Dwight Howard, left, and point guard Steve… (AP, Getty and LAT images…)
With the roster changes pretty much finalized, it's safe to envision how the Lakers will fare in the 2012-13 season. Sure, the Lakers will have to thin their 14-man roster during training camp, and no one can be sure how any potential deals might change the NBA landscape. But in the spirit of seeing how things have evolved for the Lakers since the 2012 NBA playoffs, this is one in a series breaking down potentially troublesome opponents.
Lakers' record vs. Clippers last season: 2-1
How Clippers fared last season: Finished fifth in the Western Conference with a 40-26 regular-season record. Swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
Why the Lakers are a threat to the Clippers: Even when the Clippers ran and dunked their way toward relevancy last season, they didn't steal the Lakers' spot as L.A.'s top team. They just seemed more exciting. Well the Lakers just soured that buzz by picking up Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, which should replace Slowtime with Showtime. Even though Chris Paul and Blake Griffin keep the young Clippers as playoff contenders, they'll be no match for the Lakers.
Nash may be 106 years old (actually 38), but he can still run the pick-and-roll as effectively as Paul. Griffin may enjoy beating up Pau Gasol from time to time, but he won't be able to do the same against Howard. Meanwhile, the Clippers upgrades for their bench with Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford lose some luster after the Lakers added scoring punch with Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. The Clippers may have made inroads, but they're still a long way from matching the Lakers.
This matchup goes beyond the hype. The Lakers still have more playoff experience. DeAndre Jordan has no chance at stopping Howard. Paul may blow by Nash in the open floor, but Howard won't cede much near the basket. Neither Crawford nor Chauncey Billups can guard Bryant. Gasol can overcome Griffin's superior physical play by outwitting him in the post. Add up all these variable, and the Lakers will prove once again that the Clippers are a relative afterthought in L.A.
Why the Clippers are a threat to the Lakers: As talented as the starting lineup appears on paper, the Lakers still have to avoid injuries to be successful. That could be dicey. Who knows how back surgery will affect Howard? Bryant takes great care of his body, but nobody beats Father Time. Metta World Peace no longer has nerve issues in his back, but his athleticism has waned. Pau Gasol could wear out if he has to play more during Howard's absence. And lest we forget that, at 38, Nash is ancient by NBA point guard standards.
Should any of these issues percolate, the Clippers could take full advantage. Absolutely no one can stop Paul on the open floor. The athleticism of Griffin and Jordan is unmatched. It's likely that the Clippers' playoff experience last season will help them better manage their infinite bursts of energy. The Clippers' bench also boasts more experience and talent.
Verdict: Sorry Clipper Darrell. The Lakers remain Kings of L.A. It will be a fun series, and both teams will put on a good show. But the Lakers seem far too superior to even consider this a legitimate rivalry.