Ever since the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and the Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason, fans and observers around the NBA have been clamoring for it: A Western Conference Finals Battle of Los Angeles.
In a normal year, it would have (or would not have) happened already. But 2020 has been far from normal. Still, that carrot dangles out there, the dream matchup now coming closer than ever to reality as the NBA gets set to resume and conclude its season later this month in Orlando.
Can each team get there, that’s the question on everybody’s mind. With the season set to resume, it appears the Lakers, even with a healthy and fresh LeBron and AD, are going to have the more uphill battle. Key contributor Avery Bradley is already sitting out the NBA restart and now comes news over the weekend that point guard Rajon Rondo is set to miss up to two months with a broken thumb suffered in one of LA’s first bubble practices.
Rondo’s injury is set to leave the Lakers without one of their most experienced veterans going into the playoffs. Monday on The Jump Jorge Sedano asked Rondo’s former teammate Paul Pierce what impact his absence will have on LA’s hopes.
“Well, Rondo had a great effect, especially with the second unit. He was a guy who could come in and change the pace of the game,” The Truth said. “They played a little faster, actually, with Rondo and the second unit. So now the adjustment is figuring out what style of play is the second unit going to come in and play… But for long-term effects, they’ll need him for deep in the playoffs.”
For most of the season, it was the Clippers, not the Lakers, dealing with injuries, extended absences, and “load management.” Both Leonard and George missed games due to injury. But the Clips enter the restart, a sprint to the Finals, fresh and focused and The Truth believes that makes them especially dangerous.
“They’ve had a whole offseason during this pandemic to get their bodies right, their minds right, to be ready for this moment,” Paul said. “I don’t know I’d have had confidence [in the Clippers’ health] if we had a regular season that didn’t have any stoppage, But now that they’ve had this rest, time to heal their minds and bodies, they should be considered the favorites with these two guys being healthy.”
So who is best positioned to win if these two teams do end up meeting in a dream playoff series? Jorge Sedano and Kendrick Perkins both think the Lakers have the best shot at going to the championship, but the Truth told them both they had it all wrong.
“Y’all need to slow down a bit,” explained Truth. “Y’all said one name: Anthony Davis. Yeah, he may be a match-up [problem] for the Clippers, but what about on the other side of the ball. Who’s going to match-up with Paul George? Lebron? Okay, let’s just say Lebron does match-up with Paul George and fazes him out. Who has Kawhi Leonard? Who’s going to match-up with Lou Williams? They’ve just got so many pieces that can hurt the Lakers… The Clippers are too deep, too well-coached, too much versatility for the Lakers.”
Watch Perk, Paul, Jorge Sedano, and Rachel Nichols debate it below.
The Jump airs weekdays at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.