Chris Clark, managing editor of Silver Screen And Roll -- the Los Angeles Lakers blog on the SB Nation network, took some time to answer questions before Thursday's Lakers and Boston Celtics game. Questions in bold, answers below.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are two of the biggest rivals in all of sports. There's such a magnificent history between the two teams, not to mention an extreme pedigree of success. There have been some great rivalries within the rivalry, such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and more recently, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. Where do you think the Kobe-Pierce rivalry ranks in the history of this storied rivalry?
Clark: I've never thought of this latest incarnation of the rivalry as boiling down specifically to Kobe-Pierce. Bird-Magic is the obvious number 1, because those guys were set up as rivals before they even got to the pros. After that, I'd give the nod to Jerry West vs. the entire Red Auerbach era, because that's often how those match ups played out. Kobe's relationship with the C's is similar, but these last two Finals meetings between the two were filled with so many starring roles for other guys like Derek Fisher, Ray Allen, KG, Pau Gasol, that the 2010 vintage really has been team vs. team.
Obviously, these two teams and cities aren't fond of each other. But for true Celtics and Lakers fans, it seems there is a sense of admiration for one another. Do you feel that there is a sense of respect for the Celtics franchise among Lakers fans?
Clark: I don't know if admiration is the word I'd choose, but I certainly think there's a healthy respect of the Celtics amongst Lakers fans, and beyond that, a certain level of comfort, Celtics-Lakers is one of those rare rivalries absent of one specific emotion ... jealousy. The Lakers and Celtics are truly the only two fanbases in the league (with maybe the Bulls and Spurs thrown in as well) where you know the hatred isn't driven by an envy of what the other fanbase has gotten to enjoy. You've got more banners (barely), we've got a slightly better history of sustained success, and neither side would trade the players, styles, or personalities that have gotten us here. Our mutually exclusive success both ensures that the rivalry is healthy, and ensures that we don't need to worry about bitter envy being a part of it.
Boston and Los Angeles are two teams in somewhat of a similar situation. Both feature aging rosters that have struggled somewhat to compete in their respective conference, and even in their own divisions. Which team, the Celtics or the Lakers, do you see having a brighter future in the next five years and which team is in better shape to rebuild faster?
Clark: I have to give the nod to the Lakers, for a couple reasons. The first is that, when talking about the future, you can really only talk about one or two building blocks, and the Lakers have the better one to build a team around. I like Rajon Rondo as a player just fine, but I just don't see a team being built around him as the primary component unless he has a bunch of talented players (kind of like the current Big Three) to work with. Andrew Bynum, on the other hand, is definitely the type of guy you can specifically build a team around. The other reason why the nod goes to LA is because, while the C's and Lakers are both aging squads, they do it in different ways. The C's are aging because their core is aging. KG, Truth and Jesus are all winding down their careers, and the rest of the squad (besides Rondo) around them isn't that old, they just aren't that good. The Lakers core is in better shape. Kobe may be the oldest 33 in the league, but he's still only 33, and he's putting up some of the best numbers of his career. Pau Gasol is 31, and Andrew Bynum is still a baby. All three have played well this season, it is their supporting cast that has looked incredibly old and slow, with Derek Fisher (37) and Metta World Peace (32) leading the way. Looked at in this manner, supporting casts are easier to replace than cores.
With the emergence of the Los Angeles Clippers, it appears that the Lakers aren't even the best team in their own city. What has the reaction been to the Clippers' resurgence among the Lakers fan base? Do you think the Clippers will be able to sustain their new found success over a long period of time, and what have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin done to help spark the Clippers-Lakers rivalry?
Clark: I think the only bitterness we have to the Clippers finally having a good thing going is due to the fact that they basically stole our good thing. Well, that's not true, David Stern stole our good thing, but the Clippers ended up the benefactor. Other than that, let's just say if the world expected Los Angeles to instantly become a Clippers town, that just hasn't happened. Lakers games still dwarf Clippers games in all facets (except the whole winning part). When the Clips play the Lakers in Staples, the Lakers are still the home team no matter what. Chris Paul and (much moreso) Blake Griffin have done a lot to create an intensity in the matchup, but I can't call it a rivalry because it lacks the respect we spoke of earlier.
The latest trade rumors surround the Celtics and Lakers, as reports have surfaced that a Rajon Rondo for Pau Gasol swap may interest both teams. In Boston, that move doesn't seem to make a lot of sense for a team like the Celtics, who are on the brink of a rebuilding period. Do you think this rumor has any base to it, and who else (or what picks) would the Lakers send to Boston to help sweeten the pot in a potential deal?
Clark: I sure hope the rumor is off base, because I can't imagine a worse move for either team. Getting rid of Rondo for Gasol leaves Boston with no offense to speak of, no one who can create shots, and it leaves the C's more unbalanced because most of your best players are already in the frontcourt. As for the Lakers, having a point guard like Rondo would be awesome, but as much as a PG is needed, Rondo's not the right guy to fill the need. The Lakers need shooting to space the floor so guys like Kobe and Drew can have room to work, and Rondo can't shoot. Rondo needs a great roll guy to run the pick and roll with, and the Lakers don't really have one. Of all the great point guards in the league, Rondo is the one I'd want on the Lakers the least, and that is not a reflection of my opinion of his game.
Prediction time. Whenever the Celtics and Lakers meet, it's a good game. Which team will walk away with the win on Thursday night?
Clark: I think the Lakers will steal it, simply because they've been playing better the last few games, and that hasn't translated into winning yet, which is sure to leave them angry and ready.