There was a time in the not too distant past, when the Lakers and the UCLA Bruins ruled their respective basketball worlds. They were either on top, or very close to being there. If they did not win the championship each year, they frightened the heck out of whoever actually did. This is what the local fans came to expect, and it was usually what they got.
The Clippers, on the other hand, were a national joke. They usually finished a distant last in the standings. They were used as fodder by late-night comedians. Their owner, Donald T. Sterling, was one of the least popular people in this Area. When players were fortunate enough to be traded to another team; they would announce that they felt that they had "escaped" from a prison.
So, somehow the world has turned upside down. As of this writing, the Clippers won-loss record is 32-10, the best in the NBA. Unbelievable! This simply cannot be true, but it is.
They do owe some of their good fortune to NBA Commissioner David Stern, who in a naked display of conflict of interest, voided the Lakers acquisition of Chris Paul. Canceling a trade that had already been consummated had never been done in the NBA, but for reasons of his own that is what Mr. Stern did. This gave the Clippers the opportunity to get Paul, and that is exactly what they did. Paul is not only as good as advertised, he is even better than anyone thought that he would be. His basketball skills, work ethic, and leadership have turned a bumbling franchise into a winner. In addition, the fans love him.
Meanwhile, back at Staples, the Lakers are trying to do what they used to do. However, they are like a great cook, who lost all of his recipes. Winning used to be so easy for them, but now it is the losses that add up. They fired their head coach, after just a few games at the start of the season. And then they hired another one, who wants these tired old veteran players, to play fast-paced games. He does not seem to realize that most of them are no longer capable of doing that, since they do not have the required speed or stamina. So, with all of their might, they are trying to do what he is asking of them. Since they are physically uncable of doing what he is asking, he and the team are doomed to failure. So, what is laughingly referred to as the "Brain Trust" is contemplating what they will do next. Your guess is as good as theirs.
Moving on to Westwood, it is difficult to determine if they still have a basketball program, or if the place has turned into a prison. This is where John Wooden operated. While he was there, he won championship after championship, and he made it look kind of easy. Now there seem to be weekly reports of players leaving, or getting kicked off the team, or undergoing some other kind of punishment. Maybe the water in Westwood has gone bad. Some of the players referred to their head coach as "The Warden". Did we ever think that New Mexico would be ranked in the Top 25, and that UCLA would not? Atrocious!
Even when everything else in the world was falling apart, we could always count on USC football. The mighty Trojans usually had a strong, exciting team, and it was always a thrill to watch them play. They did not win all of their games, but they won most of them. On those rare occasions, when they did lose, they did so with style and heart. You might have been disappointed when you left the Coliseum, but you would still be proud.
This year's team had so much talent that they were selected as the Number One team in the nation. Sadly, and unbelievably, they stumbled to a miserable record of 7-6. The Monday Edition of the Los Angeles Times did a puff piece on Athletic Director Pat Haden. As far as the public can tell, he has been busy rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Before he was hired for this position, he was working as a television broadcaster. He was a Trojan Football Hero, and then he was a Rhodes Scholar. Everyone liked him, and he was hired to make nice to the NCAA, and to get the sanctions against the University reduced. The NCAA did not like Mike Garrett, so he was replaced by Haden. Somehow, his charm did not work on the NCAA, and none of the sanctions were reduced.
He and his assistant, J. K. McKay were then assigned the job of babysitting Lane Kiffin, the Trojans immature head football coach. There was great concern that he might do something that would cause the school to receive additional sanctions. So far, that has not happened, although the Trojans were caught under inflating the footballs, and switching jerseys on the players. The team did not come close to living up to its preseason expectations, but according to Haden, everything is hunky-dory. USC might have caught a break when Oregon's Chip Kelly left the Ducks to coach the Eagles in the NFL. However, the rest of the PAC 12 is becoming more competitive, and their monstrous TV deal is providing more cash to all of the schools. Even with the Sanctions, Kiffin had a decided advantage over most of the schools. He was unable to take advantage of it and now his task is even harder. The upcoming year will be even more difficult for Kiffin, and if he does not have a winning season, then even Haden will not be able to save him. Thank heaven for the Clippers.