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Column:: With Anthony Davis and possibly Kawhi Leonard, Lakers and Clippers make Staples center of NBA universe

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard hoists the MVP trophy next to teammates during the team’s NBA
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard hoists the MVP trophy next to teammates during the team’s NBA championship parade in Toronto on Monday.
(Nathan Denette / Associated Press)

While the basketball world wonders who might be the third player to form the Lakers’ newest constellation of stars, the Clippers are patiently waiting for their moment in the spotlight.

It’s a position they are accustomed to being in and one they’ve thrived in recently: posting a winning record the last eight years and going to the postseason seven times while the Lakers have finished with the worst winning percentage in the league over the last six seasons.

The Lakers made the first big splash of the offseason with their blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, and they vaulted up to 3-1 favorites to win the NBA championship, according to sports books. The second favorite is the Clippers at 6-1.

If you’re wondering why Las Vegas views a team that was the No. 8 seed in the West last season and lost in the first round as the second-best team in the league, it’s because the Clippers are expected to sign Kawhi Leonard this summer. If Leonard joins the Clippers next month after leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, he would make them instant championship contenders — and Los Angeles the basketball capital of the world.

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Los Angeles has seen the Lakers win 11 championships and go to 25 NBA Finals since moving here nearly 60 years ago. And it has seen the Clippers enjoy a recent renaissance, although the franchise has yet to advance to the conference finals. But the city has only seen the Lakers and Clippers play in the same postseason six times, and the teams have never met in the playoffs. Neither team was viewed as a legitimate championship contender when they were in the postseason together; both teams lost in the first or second round.

That could all change next season if the Lakers are as good as people think and the Clippers end up doing what they’ve done the last six years.

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The Lakers and Clippers aren’t the only L.A. teams Las Vegas oddsmakers like.

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The Dodgers are the World Series favorites at 7-2; the Rams are co-favorites to win the Super Bowl at 6-1; and LAFC is favored to win the MLS Cup at 9-4, with the Galaxy right behind at 9-1.

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While the Lakers try to piece together the cap room necessary to be able to offer another max contract, is it crazy to think Kyle Kuzma is capable of being that third star?

Look at what other third stars did in their first season playing alongside LeBron James and another All-Star: Chris Bosh averaged 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in his first season in Miami and Kevin Love averaged 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his first season in Cleveland. Last season, Kuzma averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Unlike Bosh and Love, who were 26 and established All-Stars at the time, Kuzma is 23 and just coming into his own as a player. Plus, he has the added benefit of having already played with James for one season.

The Lakers seem intent on pursuing an established All-Star with the cap room they will have left, but they may already have a star-in-waiting on the roster right now.

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At what point does the turmoil and dysfunction that plagued the “Lob City” Clippers, and is now reportedly surrounding the Houston Rockets, come back to Chris Paul?

Paul will go down as one of the best point guards of all time, but he is also arguably the greatest player in league history to get past the second round of the playoffs just once in his career. The shortcomings of his teams are not totally on him, but a captain must be held accountable when dissension in the locker room unravels his teams.

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What exactly did ESPN think LaVar Ball was going to contribute by putting him on “First Take” — or, for that matter, any of its other platforms? Regardless of what he meant to say to host Molly Qerim Rose, there was no reason for him to even be on the show this week. The network clearly did it for ratings, but there’s a difference between having Magic Johnson on the show to publicly describe his working relationship with Rob Pelinka for the first time and having the overbearing father of the New Orleans Pelicans’ future point guard hawking bad products and worse opinions.

While experts try to dissect every aspect of the Davis trade, one of the benefits for the Lakers is that Los Angeles is no longer in the Ball business. Depending on whom you ask, that alone is worth a first-round pick.

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O.J. Simpson joined Twitter last week and will likely exceed 1 million followers by next week. He is following only 10 accounts, and one of them is the official USC football account.

They would never do it, but this is an easy opening for a school in need of some good publicity to do something right. The school’s account should first block Simpson (and his crazy, rambling rants about not being Khloe Kardashian’s father) and next remove his Heisman Trophy from Heritage Hall and his retired No. 32 jersey from the Coliseum.

Taking down the trophy and jersey is long overdue, but with Simpson back in the news and USC in need of some positive headlines there’s no better time than now — before USC debuts the renovated Coliseum next season.


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