LOS ANGELES — An active and fascinating NBA trade deadline that reworked rosters and organizations' futures from Miami to Minnesota to New York to Golden State also left Los Angeles basketball fans with a clear verdict.
The Clippers won the trade deadline. And the Lakers, noticeably, did not.
For the Clippers, the addition of Marcus Morris was significant. In the deal, Moe Harkless and a 2020 first-round pick heads to the New York Knicks, and Jerome Robinson goes to the Wizards. While the Clippers also acquired Isaiah Thomas, they reportedly plan to waive the veteran guard.
The Morris upgrade provides the Clippers with a tough, no-fear forward who shoots the ball well and adds depth to an already deep and dangerous Clippers team.
The win-loss ratio here between the Clippers and Lakers is by a matter of degrees, of course, and will ultimately be measured in May when presumably these two teams will face each other in a seven-game series with a berth to the NBA Finals on the line.
There are certainly a myriad of reasons the Lakers standing pat could be the wise move, and this column ultimately off base: The Lakers could still land Darren Collison out of retirement, snagging an additional ball handler and floor spacer without surrendering a single thing. The team's chemistry, a stark and impactful change from last season, has been a significant source of fuel for this season's successes, and officials may have wisely concluded consistency had more value than a would-be catalyst for potential improvement. The Lakers aren't exactly struggling -- they have a top-four offense and defense and one of the game's best records (38-11). Also, long-rumored trade-bait Kyle Kuzma certainly has upside that has gone unrealized so far this season.
But there's another factor here in assessing the addition of Morris, whose shooting prowess (44 percent on 3-point shots this season) and solid defensive skills are complementary to the larger upgrade he provides over Harkless: A toughness and fearlessness that will be a prerequisite if the Clippers are indeed destined to best the Lakers come the playoffs.
That's true beyond the obvious benefits that come with a tough team, or tough players, when trying to chase a championship and go through LeBron James to do it.
Because every other team in the NBA that could possibly play the Lakers in a seven-game playoff series can look to some kind of home-court advantage to try and close the gap. The Clippers cannot.
Lost in the frustrations and sanctimony directed at the Clippers over their approach to load management is the fact that the one real Western Conference threat to a Clippers title owns the city and arena they compete within.
Once these teams face each other -- and barring a season-changing injury to an L.A. superstar, they will -- the Lakers will have seven home games to the Clippers' zero.
It doesn't matter, once Clippers-Lakers rolls around, what banners are covered on a given night. What logo adorns the floor. What team is "home" in a particular game. This is a Lakers town, and just like in the season opener that was a "Clippers" home game, Staples Center will be pulling for the Lakers.
Enter Morris. Not only is he not a Laker (another advantage for the Clippers being they kept Morris away from LeBron and Co., just as the Rockets did with Robert Covington), Morris is also uniquely unafraid of big moments.
Facing LeBron and Anthony Davis? Dealing with boos or bad calls or not enough love during a home game? Morris is a perfect antidote, and will fit perfectly into a chip-on-our-shoulders culture with L.A.'s (distant) second team.
The line between the Clippers and the Lakers will be a thin one in that series, and every advantage could be key. Put the Clippers' chances to be much healthier and fresher come May, thanks to load management at the top of that list. And include landing Morris as another important marker in the NBA's Battle of L.A.
A lot of teams had great trade-deadline outcomes. For me, big winners include the contract-offloading miracle the Miami Heat pulled off, the Atlanta Hawks' Clint Capela addition and Minnesota's acquisition of D'Angelo Russell and a possible personality and basketball fit for Karl-Anthony Towns.
And yes, it's possible Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka did the hardest thing there is to do when running one of sports' most important and demanding organizations: Nothing.
But I think it's more likely the Clippers' ability to land Morris will be one of the several important steps that give them a real chance over the Lakers come May.