Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/19/11
Despite the hoopla surrounding the Clippers since the acquisition of Chris Paul and the signing of Chauncey Billups, LA's "other" NBA team hasn't quite taken the city from the Lakers and their years of tradition and championships. As long as Kobe Bryant is leading the way and Pau Gasol plays like the All Star that he is, it could be a whileBlake Griffin or not. However, Monday night's exhibition game between the STAPLES Center rivals could be the start of turning Lakerland into "Lob City." Both squads held public scrimmages at USC's Galen Center over the weekend, and while the Lakers drew more fans, the Clips' faithful was more raucous. They seem to recognize that the new "Big Three" in town wears red, white and blue, booing any mention of the Lakers during introductions by announcer Ralph Lawler or reminders by PA announcer David Courtney. It's a new basketball era in Los Angeles, with Donald Sterling's former misfits becoming a legitimate playoff team right before our eyes. Not to say that the Lakers are going to fall into the abyss and replace the Clippers as a running punchlinethat won't happen. But the loss of Lamar Odom to defending champion Dallas and getting nothing immediately useful in return has weakened a team which won back-to-back titles just two seasons ago. Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy have both had their moments in the NBA, but neither will be the salve that heals the wound caused by LO's departure to Texas. There's only one player who can do that, and as each day passes it looks less and less likely that Orlando will once again rescue a Laker franchise that appears headed downhill. They already did that in 1996 when they allowed Shaquille O'Neal to test the free agent market, ultimately bolting Orlando for a 126-million contract to join the Lakers. Three championships later, you have to believe that the Magic learned a valuable lesson: Don't let your franchise player end up wearing purple and gold. So, if Howard does end up traded to the Lakers, it was a lesson ignored. And it could be the ruination of their team and organization. The Clippers, on the other hand, have a star-studded, talented group, starting with the magnificent Griffin; three tremendous points guards in Paul, Billups and Mo Williams; a two-time All Star in F Caron Butler and a potential force in the middle by the name of DeAndre Jordan. The bench is rounded out by Eric Bledsoe (currently out after knee surgery), Randy Foye, Brian Cook and Ryan Gomes. This isn't any longer a team which must have everything go their way every game to barely sneak into the eight playoff spot. The Clippersif healthy all yearlikely make the playoffs easily and could be fighting for home court advantage rather than their postseason lives. "That's the way it is around here right now," said Billups, who was signed after New York used its amnesty provision and waived him. "This isn't the Clippers people have seen around here. It's a new outlook, a new feeling in Clipperland. We're not just trying to make the playoffs; we're trying to win the whole thing. "Expectations are different, and as Chris and I will always tell you, that's the only reason you play. We've got guys on this team who have played deep into the playoffs and that's going to make all of our jobs so much easier." Especially the phenom, young Mr. Griffin, who has already developed a big brothers-little brother relationship with Billups and Paul. Following Sunday's workout Griffin said "Like (Chauncey) mentioned, he and Chris are going to make it easier on the guys and easier on me as well. Not only on the court, but off the court as well. They're teaching me things they've learned during their 800 or so years in the league (all three started laughing), and I know I can go to them and take whatever (knowledge) they have. "I know myself and the rest of the team welcome what they bring." Billups, who was the Finals MVP when his Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers in 2004, is happy to be considered a mentor to one of the game's greatest young stars. "Absolutely. Absolutely. He's a humble dude, and that why you guys (in the media) are in a perfect position to be able to watch him for the next however many years. You're watching greatness every night with Blake." It's not always the great players who win the games, however. It can be a role player and it can be the 12th or 15th man who practices hard every single workout. It can also be a player who is unhappy with his new role, being dropped from the starting lineup, yet continues to give his all whenever he hits the floor. Williams has been an All Star and was one of the reasons the Clips were able to finish with some respectability after last year's disastrous 1-13 start. With Paul and Billups now populating the starting backcourt, Williams is essentially a sixth man. And he's not too happy about it, expressing his displeasure to coach Vinny Del Negro and VP Neil Olshey. But on Sunday, with time running out during nothing more meaningful than a glorified practice, there went Mo, flying onto the scorer's table chasing after a loose ball. He didn't get it, but he did win the praise of Paul. "It says a lot; it's what we're all about. Mo was setting a standard by going after it like that, setting an example for the young guys. "It's high expectations now around here, and we have to work hard day in and day out to get what we want." Which is something the Lakers already have to go with their 16 championshipsrespect.
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