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             === Clippers, Lakers get to work at Staples Center ===
 (  - The  battle of the Staples Center occupants will be the
 final  tilt in Tuesday's opening night extravaganza as the Lakers and Clippers
 square off.
 These  Los Angeles teams have built quite a rivalry and it's fitting they duel
 on the first night of the 2013-14 NBA season.
 Adding fuel to this budding feud, which has seen the Clippers become the power
 in the Pacific Division, new Clips coach Doc Rivers made the call to cover the
 Lakers championship banners when the Clippers are the home team.
 Some  Lakers,  mostly new  swingman Nick  Young, who  has been responsible for
 exactly zero of their championship banners, criticized the idea, but it's just
 another compelling angle between two fascinating teams.
 For  the Clippers, Rivers is in town and came at a steep price, and not in the
 form  of his  paycheck. The Clippers had  to trade the Boston Celtics a first-
 round pick for Rivers' services.
 That  move  helped sure  up the most  important piece in  the whole equation -
 Chris Paul. The All-NBA point guard re-upped with the Clips for five years and
 humongous money.
 Next,  the Clippers  traded Caron  Butler and  Eric Bledsoe  to bring  in some
 desperately needed shooting help. J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, both solid NBA
 professionals, will man the wings with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
 Clearly,  after  a  disappointing  first-round playoff  exit  to  the  Memphis
 Grizzlies,  and  despite a franchise-best 56  wins, the Clips needed to change
 the culture.
 Are they ready to take the next step?
 "That's  the plan,  clearly, but I think  our team will tell us," Rivers said.
 "Our  team will tell us if we're ready to make that next step. I think we are,
 but  I hate to have it nondescript. What is the next step? I don't really like
 taking steps. I like taking jumps."
 It would require a massive jump for the Lakers to be contenders again soon.
 After  a  disastrous 2012-13 season,  which saw the  firing of head coach Mike
 Brown  five  games in,  and constant  power struggles  between Kobe Bryant and
 Dwight Howard, the Lakers look for stability.
 Howard  bolted to the Houston Rockets and few people cared. ("Honestly, man, I
 don't  really  give a  s---," was  Bryant's response  media day about Howard's
 But  the bigger problem  for head coach Mike D'Antoni this season isn't how to
 replace  Howard,  it's how  to stay afloat  without Bryant. The fourth-leading
 scorer  in NBA history tore his Achilles in April and his return to action has
 no timetable.
 "He'll  back when  he can  get  back," D'Antoni  said. "I'm  sure he's  making
 progress, but he'll be back as soon as he can."
 In  Bryant's absence,  Pau Gasol  and Steve  Nash will  lead the  Lakers, both
 trying to make up for disappointing campaigns.
 D'Antoni  hasn't decided  what  his  starting lineup  will  be  as of  Tuesday
 morning,  juggling  in his  mind whether  to start a  traditional big man like
 Chris  Kaman alongside  Gasol, or Shawne Williams, a "stretch four," as is the
 trendy new term.
 The Clippers swept all four games last season against the Lakers.
 10/29 10:30:49 ET

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