Clippers-Lakers: 5 moments that changed L.A.’s power balance

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May 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts while speaking to the media after the game against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers’ attempted rebuild in 2012

This is a fundamental stage of the Lakers’ recent regression that has allowed the new era Clippers to emerge as the most talented team in Los Angeles. They have always been a storied franchise with more legends, hardware, and attraction for free agents than anyone else (except for the Celtics when it comes to championships, of course). The Lakers have just always had a certain aura about them.

Aura and history aside, though, things don’t always work out as magically as intended.

To bring in Dwight Howard, it would take a four-team trade to acquire him from the Orlando Magic and give the dominant center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year a chance to shine with a new team. A team with both a history of great centers and a team with aspirations of more titles.

At least, the plan was for him to shine.

Instead, he never came remotely close to carving out a legacy like other legendary centers of the team such as Shaq or Kareem Abdul-Jabarr. He was less involved offensively, he averaged the fewest points per game (17.1) in six years, he could never be the alpha-dog that he wanted to be, and he dealt with back problems that bothered him even further.

Before even considering the failed trade for the always-injured Steve Nash that sacrificed four draft picks (two 1st round ones) and nearly $10 million in salary cap, it’s clear that the attempt to bring Dwight and rebuild the team was an absolute disaster.

Besides the sudden fall of All-Star center Andrew Bynum due to constant injuries and the departure of Pau Gasol later on in 2014, it was the new set of players the Lakers brought in for the 2012-13 season that made everyone realize just how much times had changed. Dwight never truly fit in, Nash couldn’t stay healthy and was far past his prime at 38 years of age, and they barely clawed their way into the playoffs in 2012-13 before getting dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs in a 4-0 sweep.

It was clear that season that the Lakers were never going to succeed with Dwight, and he promptly left at the end of the year and signed with the Houston Rockets in free agency.

Another ‘era’ was over, and another chance to contend was gone. Meanwhile, Lob City and the Clippers were gradually getting stronger.

Next: The physical decline of Kobe