The battle for L.A. supremacy

The 2012 NBA season got off to a slow start…if you could even call it that. I must admit, my fan level waned a bit — especially in the beginning with my Celtics’ rough start. Among all of the confusion surrounding the lockout and the disappointments that arose when the Knicks weren’t as brilliant as we thought they would be with Carmelo Anthony, one team has risen to put some excitement into the NBA season — the Los Angeles Clippers.

One thing you learn pretty fast living in Los Angeles is that it is Lakers town. And for good reason — the Lakers win and they look pretty damn good doing it. The Clippers, on the other hand, really haven’t and so for many years that ‘other’ L.A. team happened to be just an afterthought, the less attractive and gangly younger brother to Kobe Bryant.

Choosing to root for the Clippers in past seasons meant rooting for a team that has been to the playoffs only four times in 27 years of play. That embodies frustration. And so when the legendary team around the corner is winning championship rings left and right, it is hard to want to root for the losers.

With the ball already rolling in the 2012 season, it has become quite apparent that the Clippers are playing a whole new game than in previous years. Despite the close 96-91 loss to the Lakers on Jan. 25 in a game for L.A. dominance, the Clippers are still at the top of the Pacific Western Conference standings.

Mounting wins against the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets means that the Clippers finally seem as if they can hang with the big guys. While the Eastern Division is laden with heavy competition, the Western Conference is less so — giving the Clippers a real chance of battling to win the conference.

The Clippers starting lineup consists of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who have collectively scored 114.9 points per 100 possessions in the season. Paul and Griffin have boosted the offense to ignite the court — take Griffin’s dunk over Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins as an example. That one will most certainly be added to Griffin’s extensive highlight dunk reel, and even prompted Perkins to delete his Twitter account.

With this respectable starting unit, the Clippers are posting an average score of 108-91 against their opponents. The area of improvement needed for the team is on the defensive end. With a defensive efficiency rank of 25, the Clippers need to smarten up if they want to seriously advance.

The emergence of the Clippers as a dominant force in the western division is altering the landscape of a once Laker-dominated area. Following the debacle of the Dodgers and the mediocrity of the L.A. Kings hockey team, dedicated sport fans truly only have basketball as a venue for fandom. Now that two basketball teams that play on the same court and practice in facilities 10 minutes from one another are competing for top rites in L.A., an interesting rivalry that may change the dynamic of the western sporting world is rising up. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, the Lakers and the Clippers, find themselves in Battle: Los Angeles.