The 2015-2016 NBA season is almost upon us, and Los Angeles is lucky enough to field two teams(both in the Western Conference, of course), so if you have a hankering for basketball, you always get your fix. No matter which team you have your allegiance to, the Lakers or the Clippers, there is a rich history and culture of the NBA in L.A., although depending on your chosen team, the results have varied wildly. Lakers fans are probably self-exiled in a pit of despair because the team hasn't won a championship in over five seasons; cue World's Tiniest Violin. If you're a Clippers fan, then you're probably in much better shape, emotionally(probably because you weren't there throughout the 80s and 90s), but they provide an up-and-down roller coaster ride that could still make any fan hesitant of getting on to their bandwagon. Nonetheless, this is a big market for basketball, as much as the Dodgers and Angels would like to pretend, via billboards, that they "own this town".
I recently caught myself thinking about the things those NBA fixtures have in common with the Angels, if any, and if there were any lessons to be gleaned from them. You'd have to figure that with all of that spotlight, turmoil, ecstasy, agony, public dealings, tv rights, contracts, scandals, championship teams and basement dwellers alike, there'd be some nuggets of wisdom to be taken and adhered to by our beloved Halos. So, here are a few things that the Lakers and Clippers could teach to the Angels, or that they've already taught each other.
1. It will take nothing short of a scandal to remove an entrenched, billionaire owner:
Arte Moreno is (from what we know) no Donald Sterling. If you'll remember, Donald Sterling was the surly, ousted Clippers owner whose murky business dealings, player acrimony and racist undertones had littered the Los Angeles sports talk world with ugly rumors for years. Former players and current players alike had issues with the man, but it wasn't until his girlfriend recorded him saying bigoted remarks that the world, and the NBA, stood up and took notice. Even then, Sterling was fighting tooth and nail to keep his team, continuing his campaign of tone deaf sports franchise ownership, and further illustrating just why this guy had to go, for the good of the Clippers franchise and it's fans. Again, Moreno isn't as dastardly and underhanded as we've come to know Sterling is, but both seemed to be content with meddling where they shouldn't, crippling their respective teams with bad organizational hirings, signings, draft picks and marketing moves. Who would you rather have owning the Angels? Steve Ballmer or Arte Moreno?
2. Good coaching goes a long, long way:
If you're a Clippers fan, you had a nice little Larry Brown era, and the current Doc Rivers era, but outside of that, you are used to a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of new head coach hirings. If you're a Lakers fan, then you most likely are very fond of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, and have the rest of the Lakers' coaches over the past 30 years that aren't named Riley and Jackson on your personal hate list. Meanwhile, as Angels fans, we can kind of relate with our current Mike Scioscia situation. Manager/head coach is an important position, and it's crucial to know when to cut bait and when to hang on to your current brain trust. It's a tough nut to crack, though, because if Mike Scioscia walks, we could run the risk of having that vacuum filled with something worse...the MLB equivalent of Randy Pfund or Alvin Gentry.
3. Don't give huge contracts to fading superstars:
When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, he was already showing signs of a downward trend, yet the Angels rolled out the red carpet and signed the already-old(MLB-wise) Pujols to a staggering 10 year deal that will see The Machine being paid $30 million in 2021. Meanwhile, the Lakers' superstar and overall mega-star Kobe Bryant had a torn Achilles and was making $30 million per year himself in 2013, when the Lakers doubled down and offered him a two year extension that will see him make over $20 million per season through 2015-2016. Must be nice, making all that scratch for stuff you've already done, as opposed to production/output is still expected. Okay, so this isn't a lesson that could be learned by the Angels, since they've already done the deal with Pujols, but it's interesting to see both major franchises being hamstrung by two aging giants of the game, and the millions and millions they'll accrue for being average at their job.
4. Depth is HUGE:
The 2014-2015 Clippers team was super fun to watch, and had some high aspirations last year. With an exciting core of Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, they could dole out some high-flying punishment on teams. While they were able to dispatch the Spurs in the first round, but they found themselves over-matched in the second round by Houston Rockets. Most didn't really tab the Clippers as going to deep to begin with, no matter how much excitement they could generate via Sportscenter highlights. The team's bench was almost non-existent, and was quickly exposed, just how the Angels' bench was a sad, depleted fiasco for much of 2015. If you want to go far, you'll need more than a couple All Stars. You'll need some guys coming off of the bench or out of the dugout that can accomplish team goals while giving the heavy hitters a breather.
5. Play in your own stadium, for crying out loud:
This is more a reverse lesson, in that the Clippers and Lakers, who both call Staples Center home, could learn a thing or two from the Angels and their own inter-city rivals, the Dodgers. Just like the NBA teams of our fair city, the Dodgers and Angels once shared a home stadium(aka Dodger Stadium aka Chavez Ravine Stadium) from 1962 til 1965. At that point, the Angels got the wherewithal to have their own new digs built, and finally managed to distance themselves from the OTHER L.A. team. Of course, this meant moving far away and putting the "L.A." tag in jeopardy. The Clippers find themselves in a similar situation, sharing a building with their rival, but one can ponder what it'd be like if they were to get their own home(just like the Sports Arena days) and a push to further distance themselves as the Lakers' belittled, red-headed step brother. Los Angeles Clippers of Anaheim?
So, do you see any other similarities or lessons to be learned from our NBA cousins in L.A.? And more importantly, on the eve of the beginning of the NBA season...who ya got? Clippers or Lakers?