COMMENTARY | There is no greater rivalry in the NBA than the blood feud between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Though it's probably more accurate to say there was no greater rivalry.
Both teams are in a down cycle -- with the Celtics going into full-blown rebuild mode and the Lakers hanging on by a thread. There are no teams with more championships than these two, but most likely neither team will even make the playoffs this year.
So, if you're the Lakers, what do you do when your long-time nemesis is finally brought to his knees? You have to find yourself a new nemesis.
And along come the L.A. Clippers.
Living in Los Angeles my whole life, it's hard to think of the Clippers as anything but a punchline. After all, their name is really just a misspelling of "Cripples."
This is a franchise that has given hope to so many others over the decades because no matter how bad things got, "at least we're not the Clippers."
However, the times are changing and the L.A. Clippers are now one of the better teams in the league. They're still the Clippers, so there's no need to worry about winning a championship, but they've built a formidable roster that, this year, is a lock to make the playoffs.
Here are five reasons for everyone to hate the L.A. Clippers:
Team Owner Donald Sterling
OK, let's start with the obvious. In addition to being regarded as a terrible team owner hell-bent on "minimizing costs" by cutting the team's budget and refusing to spend money on players, he's also got an ugly history of discriminatory housing practices.
It's hard to believe there's a worse Donald than Donald Trump. But try to imagine the worst owner possible and then imagine that person heckling his own players, firing his head coach in a press release and refusing to allow medical coverage for an assistant coach's cancer treatment. That's Donald Sterling.
The Clippers Stole Chris Paul
The best player on the Clippers should have been on the Lakers. Part of that is longtime Sterling-apologist David Stern's doing. Fresh off a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was supposed to hinder teams like the Lakers from continuing their winning ways, Chris Paul, the best point guard in the league, was getting shopped around by the New Orleans Hornets.
The Lakers and the Houston Rockets worked out a three-way trade that would send Paul to L.A. Stern stepped in and vetoed the trade "in the interest of the league." While a new deal was being negotiated between the three teams, the Clippers jumped in and traded SG Eric Gordon for Paul, thereby hurting the Lakers an Rockets. Stern allowed this trade to go through despite New Orleans getting significantly less value.
The Clippers Covering Up Lakers' Banners
The Clippers share tenancy of the Staples Center and, obviously, nobody in their right mind thinks it's a bad idea for them to cover up the Lakers' many championship banners while the Clippers are the home team.
However, the Clippers have been playing there for 14 years. What kind of person didn't cover up those championship banners from day one? I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with "Bonald Berling."
The Clippers Are a Very Good Team
This season's team is the best assembly of players the Clippers have ever had. They won their division handily last year with Vinny Del Negro as their head coach. Vinny Del Negro for crying out loud! Imagine what they might do with a real coach.
The better a team gets, the more the fans of other teams start to hate that team. But, really, how can anyone hate a team like the Clippers who have given so many teams so many easy victories over the years?
New Coach Doc Rivers
For Lakers fans who will miss playing against a relevant Celtics team for the next few years, the addition of former Boston head coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers bench raises the stakes between the two L.A. teams.
I'm not sure Rivers is actually a very good coach. His work before the arrival of Boston's Big 3 is suspect. However, there's no way he (or anyone with any basketball knowledge whatsoever) is as bad as Del Negro.
Los Angeles will always be a Lakers town. There's nothing the Clippers can do about that. But if they keep winning, the jokes will die down and, with the exception of their monster of an owner, the Clippers can actually start to gain some respect.
And, for the Lakers, they're finally a legitimate rivalry -- for now.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can discuss sports and pop culture with him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation