From Max Piner, Lakers Nation: Coming into the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers were the ones with championship expectations after the offseason acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. We all know how that turned out. Coming into this season, it is the team down the hall in Staples Center with the championship expectations. For the first time since…well, ever, the Clippers are expected to legitimately compete for a title this season. The Clippers embarrassed the Lakers in all four of their meetings last season, sweeping the series for the first time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles. The games were not close either, as the Clips won by an average margin of 13.2 points per game. In hiring one of the top three coaches in the league in Doc Rivers, the Clippers are looking to instill a winning mentality into their franchise. In tonight’s opener, the Lakers have a tall task ahead of them in trying to defeat their hallway rivals without the services of Kobe Bryant.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: If you haven’t heard, Dwight Howard wasn’t happy in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, and the feeling was pretty mutual. What, you heard that already? Okay, during the preseason this whole storyline has been overplayed more than “Blurred Lines,” but as the season tips off tonight, the Lakers coach decided to answer a reporters’ question in a way to fire one last shot across Howard’s bow. Sam Amick of the USA Today asked the question about the Lakers running their offense through Howard last season when they had a better fit on he roster in Pau Gasol (who some Lakers fans spent years calling soft but now idolize in the wake of Howard).
From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Mike D’Antoni has a funny habit of laughing whenever he is most honest. The truth might hurt, but it goes down better when you can laugh at the absurdity of it. And so it was the other night when the Lakers coach was asked if he was encouraged by the team’s play in the preseason following a win over the Utah Jazz. “Well, I think every coach right now is confident,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “I’m sure [Gen. George] Custer was confident before he went to Little Bighorn too. He was hootin’ and hollerin’ and probably happy as heck, so that’s how we are right now. Talk to me in December and we’ll have a more serious discussion.” Now that may not be the best historical parallel to cite for a coach on a warm seat, but D’Antoni’s point is clear: Who knows?
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: The Clippers begin their season with high hopes, new leadership and perhaps the best roster ever constructed around Chris Paul. The Lakers begin without Kobe Bryant on the floor and no timetable on his return released to the public. The stakes that were so incredibly high for the Lakers last year have all but dropped to the bottom. There’s no need to show Dwight Howard why he should be a Laker, he booked it. There’s no realistic title aspirations, the team is starting Nick Young and Shawne Williams. After a period of title or bust that truly began when Pau Gasol slipped on a purple and gold jersey the Lakers face something more akin to Nike’s famed “just do it” slogan. Just go out and play. Just go out and do your best. Just go out and prove the doubters wrong. It’s not unreasonable to be down on the team’s chances, and it’s not unreasonable to hold onto faith that this new batch of Lakers can band together and form a bond that is greater than the sum of their parts. There’s no wrong way to view this season, much like an unwrapped Reese’s peanut butter cup.