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LOS ANGELES — Three months after a heated recruiting battle that pitted Los Angeles’ two NBA teams against one another for the services of Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers and Lakers took the fight to the floor, where talent acquisitions are transformed into stardom. Years of planning, posturing, billboards and flight-tracking finally translated into actual basketball between two teams who play in the same building and each have a claim as title favorites.

Angelenos are notoriously late arrivals, but on Tuesday night, they filled the bowl at Staples Center early, as if they were concerned they might miss something. It was an entirely appropriate response now that four of the best 10 basketball players in the worldLeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Paul George — compete in Los Angeles.

Though the Clippers hosted and won the season opener 112-102, the raucous crowd was a house divided, which has been the case for years at Clippers’ home games against their intracity rivals. The Clippers have spent the past decade mounting the sports world’s most aggressive rebranding campaign, but their introductory video was an unsubtle nod to the long shadow that extends over that effort:

Grit Over Glam, Street Lights Over Spotlights, Squad Over Self, L.A. Our Way.

When after the video Leonard took the microphone to welcome Clippers fans — “We’re going to work hard every night. Let’s get it going” — he was showered with a cacophony of cheers and boos. He was booed during the game with the same spirit Lakers fans roared during their team’s third-quarter flurry with LeBron on the bench. The message to Kawhi from the fans of the incumbent Lakers, who lead the Los Angeles series 102-53: You might have residency in southern California, but universal esteem won’t come without a banner.

Around Third

via www.espn.com – NBA http://www.espn.com

October 23, 2019 at 01:10AM