The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions once again, and while there shouldn't be an asterisk on this bubble title, it is worth mentioning that we never got the matchup between them and the Los Angeles Clippers. That was the projected Western Conference finals matchup all season long and was on pace to happen until the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round.
From a fan and media perspective, the Clippers became the laughing stock of the league for a short time. But what about with the players? During a recent appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast, Lakers veteran Jared Dudley said it was the same for him and his teammates.
Ryen Russillo: What was the reaction, what were you guys saying to each other when you saw the Clippers blow that 3-1 lead?
Jared Dudley: We were laughing. We were laughing in the sense like 'I can't believe it.' I picked them to win Game 7 [vs. the Nuggets], there was no way I thought they were gonna lose. Our whole mind was, 'we gotta beat the Clippers.' We want the Clippers, they wanted us. It was the trash talking that happened; Pat Bev 'check ball' during the pandemic; Playoff P talking about he the best, him and Kawhi; Kawhi with the commercials and the crown; we're seeing all these billboards up here. When we're going to practice every day, there's a Kawhi billboard. We see this billboard every single day.
The world wants it, the world's picking the Clippers. The Clippers are happy Avery Bradley didn't show up to the bubble... So we were looking forward to that matchup, but it was just crazy. Seeing Paul George hit the side of the backboard, Kawhi not having it, but those boys didn't want to be in the bubble. They didn't want to be there. I don't blame them for certain times, but the world needed to see the Clippers and Lakers, and it was unfortunate we didn't see that.
This really isn't all that surprising. Just from a general perspective, as long as you aren't cheering for them there's humor in watching a favorite fall apart as the Clippers did. Remember, not only did they have a 3-1 series advantage, but they had double-digit leads in the last three games.
And for the Lakers, in particular, it must have been hilarious. All season long the Lakers had to hear about how the Clippers were their biggest challenge in the West, and then to watch Kawhi and Co. collapse like that after they had already taken care of business? It doesn't get better than that.
If anything, the most notable point here is just how much the Kawhi Leonard billboard seemed to bother Dudley and the Lakers. You wouldn't think players would pay much attention to something like that if they even noticed it at all. But, apparently, it provided some extra motivation for the Lakers. And as silly as that might sound, it's hard to argue with the results.