NBA: Does Los Angeles belong to the Lakers or the Clippers?
During this transfer period, the NBA was completely reorganized. Eight hours after the start of July 1, more Allstars had joined the team than can be counted on one hand - deals worth more than $ 3 billion were decided and new title candidates emerged. It took a few days longer before the main domino stone fell. Kawhi Leonard, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), held the future of three teams in his huge hands.
His previous team, the Toronto Raptors, had made Leonard the first Canadian NBA champion. The two teams from his home town of Los Angeles, the Lakers and the Clippers, wanted to recruit him. The athletic argument of the Lakers was the already existing star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. For the Clippers, a broad, balanced squad and Doc Rivers, one of the league's most respected leaders, spoke.
The contract was awarded to the Clippers, who paid a historic high price for Leonard's commitment. The 28-year-old insisted on a partnership with winger Paul George of Oklahoma City Thunder. To meet Leonard's condition, the Clippers dropped two players and five first-round force picks into Oklahoma City.
Aftershocks in California
The news of Leonard's and Georges commitments shook the NBA, and many professionals and experts wrote their bewilderment in tweets.
The Lakers had all hopes of getting Leonard. They had ignored many interesting contractless professionals and waited for the decision of their favorite player. They were not completely unprepared for a refusal, as it turned out, after the 28-year-old had opted for the city rivals. First, the Lakers Leonards ex-teammate Danny Green went ashore, shortly afterwards Star Center DeMarcus cousins of the Golden State Warriors. There were also several important supplementary players.
The Clippers also filled up their squad, leaving reliable superstars Leonard and George in every position, including defensive specialist Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, the best-placed banker of the past two seasons.
The greatest possible gradient
The rivalry between the two teams in Los Angeles is - from a historical point of view - extremely one-sided. On one side are the Lakers with 16 championships. Superstars like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant played for the team. The Lakers embody Hollywood, with regulars in the front row being Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington.
On the other side are the Clippers, who only reached the playoffs 14 times in their 49-year existence - less often than the Lakers won the title. For decades, the team was a joke.
That changed in 2009 with the arrival of Blake Griffin. The athletic forward was put two years later playmaker Chris Paul by the side. In addition, Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft, bought the franchise and created a new culture. He financed new training facilities and rebuilt the brand. What followed was the most successful era in Clippers history.
The team reached the playoffs six times in a row, but at the latest in the second round was always over. Meanwhile, the Lakers themselves experienced a drought period: After Bryant Achilles tendon rupture in 2013 broke the title team from 2009 and 2010 - since the Lakers wait for a playoff participation. The balance of power in Los Angeles is tilted.
Who currently has the edge?
A year ago, the Lakers finally managed the commitment of LeBron James, the best player of his generation. The expectations were huge, but the season was disastrous. The squad lacked experience and accuracy from a distance. Injuries were added, and the season ended in more defeats than victories. The other L.A. team was doing better - despite the departure of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. With a mediocre squad, the team fought last season until the playoffs. In round one, however, was over.
Now both teams are title candidates for the next season. Outside of L.A. there is no team with such strong star duos.
The combination of James, Davis and cousins is physically imposing and extremely talented, albeit vulnerable to injury. The big strength of the Clippers is the defense. George was nominated for the Defensive Award last season - Leonard has already won twice (2015 and 2016). But also the Clippers stars have an injury history.
A favorite is barely visible. Too many variables, too little has been seen by both teams in their new constellations. Both teams will have to get used to each other. Those who will be the best team in L.A. in the upcoming season have never been so open.