When the Powers That Be in the NBA gave their blessing to a trade that would send Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, there was much consternation and angst about the deal compromising fair play, allowing appearances of impropriety, setting damaging precedents and rendering a ward-of-the-state team without an owner powerless to steer its own ship. And all of it was valid.
But there was also widespread excitement at the prospect of the All-World point guard tossing lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, L.A.'s two dynamic front-line finishers. Two of the most excited people, you might remember, were Griffin and Jordan themselves, whose instant reaction gave rise to the catchphrase "Lob City." The Internet embraced Lob City wholeheartedly, making it the subject of reconstituted rap anthems, crisp T-shirts and about a billion other things. As tends to happens with things embraced by the Internet, though, people soon grew weary of the Lob City meme ... including, most notably, the Clippers.
Paul, Griffin and Jordan have at times produced amazing alley-oop dunks, but mostly they've been eager to prove that they're a complete team capable of contending for a championship. How successful they've been is up for debate. The Clips are 32-21, in line for the fifth seed in a tough Western Conference and clearly light-years better than they've been in years. They've also shown weaknesses (namely defense and free-throw shooting) that good opponents could exploit. Opponents like the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers, whom Vinny Del Negro's team will face in a marquee Wednesday night matchup.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Clips showing they were serious men, though — apparently, they got supplanted as L.A.'s premiere lob specialists. From Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
A review of the Lakers' and Clippers' play-by-play records from every game this season by The Times showed that the Lakers have converted 110 alley-oop dunks and layups compared with 89 for their fellow Staples Center tenants. That's a 23.6% advantage for the Lakers, though they have played one more game than the Clippers heading into the teams' final regular-season meeting Wednesday. [...]
The Clippers hold an edge strictly in lob dunks, with 82 to the Lakers' 72. But Lakers center Andrew Bynum's 25 alley-oop layups help put the Lakers, well, over the top.
According to The Times' research — which extends on work done by NBA.com's Steve Aschburner a few months back — Bynum, not Blake, has asserted himself as "the de facto mayor" of Lob City this year, with almost as many alley-oop dunks and layups as Griffin and Jordan combined. (With the way Bynum's been acting of late, though, he'd probably hold out for "undisputed dictator for life" of Lob City.)
Many of Bynum's alley-oop finishes have come from front-court partner Pau Gasol, who — in a completely unsurprising turn of events — has more lob assists by himself than everyone who has played point guard for the Lakers has accumulated this year, according to The Times. Gasol's unique passing gifts made him a perfect fit in the triangle offense favored by Phil Jackson and Tex Winter, but he's also shown a capacity to make big-to-big passes for Bynum to flush in more conventional half-court settings and even on the break.
The at-the-rim volleyball that Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom can play was a staple of long Lakers postseason runs for years; with Mike Brown's team leading the Pacific, in line for home-court advantage in at least the first round, and Bynum and Gasol pairing with a still deadly (if still shot-happy) Kobe Bryant and a rejuvenated backcourt headed by trade-deadline acquisition Ramon Sessions, it could be again. The Lakers beating the Clips at what's perceived to be their own game and then running deep in the playoffs with it could separate the Clippers from the idea of Lob City once and for all.
Even if they don't, though, the simple fact that Bynum's comparatively unremarkable big strong slams and Pau's long-arms-keepaway passes comprise the more "real" Lob City kind of undercuts the whole mythos of an offense built around alley-oops anyway. When Lob City's just a place where regular people live rather than a fancy vacation destination, then why would we want to go there?
There are, however, a few other areas where the Clippers as a team are superior to the Lakers — in 3-point accuracy, for example, and in total steals. I'm not sure that "Three-Point Township" or "Pilferer's Province" would look great on a T-shirt, but at least there'd be more truth in the advertising.