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A season of ifs, buts and maybes in NBA's Western Conference

L.A. has a title contender in the Clippers, but chemistry and competition will be factors

October 28, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Clippers point guard Chris Paul, left, looks to pass around Denver's Ty Lawson during a preseason game on Oct. 19. The Clippers are poised to be one of the elite teams in Western Conference this season.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, left, looks to pass around Denver's… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )

Looks are never more deceiving than they are in the NBA's Western Conference.

Oklahoma City held what seemed to be exclusive rights to the conference championship as recently as summer 2012, when the Thunder's run-and-fun core of young stars was poised to make yearly trips to the Finals.

Then the Lakers got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the Thunder traded James Harden and it was hello, Lakers dynasty!

That sentiment lasted all of eight preseason games last fall.

There's still a team from Los Angeles with title hopes that aren't as fake as most noses in the 90210 neighborhood, but it isn't the Lakers.

The Clippers will try to conjure a championship under new Coach Doc Rivers as the Boston Celtics did six years ago upon the formation of their Big Three.

Of course, the Clippers need Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to play up to their massive potential to have a Big Three.

Even then, they'll meet considerable resistance from the San Antonio Spurs, whose star remains bright with the rise of Kawhi Leonard, and the Thunder, who will be formidable once Russell Westbrook returns from his latest knee setback to join Kevin Durant.

There's also Golden State, eager to show that last season's playoff run was only a prelude to something far more memorable.

Houston remains giddy over Howard's arrival, though Rockets fans should probably wait to see how he fits into the Rockets' giddy-up offense before ordering championship T-shirts.

At least you know that Howard is going to have fun no matter what.

It's easy to overlook Memphis after the Grizzlies — and then Coach Lionel Hollins — disappeared amid a snap-your-fingers-and-it's-over conference finals, but there's more than enough talent left on their roster for another foray deep into May.

Fringe playoff contenders include Minnesota, the Lakers, Denver and Portland. The Timberwolves seem like a smart bet to end their 10-year playoff drought behind Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and newcomer Kevin Martin.

Then again, around here, things aren't always as they seem.

Twitter: @latbbloch

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