It’s 2013; a new year, a new beginning, a time to embrace change. For the Lakers and Clippers, who square off this Friday, change can be summed up by one number: 17.

For decades the Lakers have been the premier NBA franchise with a storied history while the Clippers have been cursed by bad luck and sloppy management. About the only thing these two teams had in common was that they shared the same zip code.

The 2009-2010 season seemed to reaffirm the pecking order in LA. The Lakers won the title that year while the Clippers’ #1 draft pick, Blake Griffin, was out for the season due to a knee injury.

Little did we know that Los Angeles sports had just reached a tipping point…

In 2010 -2011, Blake Griffin’s official rookie year, he would end up as an All-Star, the Slam Dunk Competition champion, and as Rookie of the Year. The Lakers meanwhile, would be swept out of the playoffs and lose Coach Phil Jackson at the end of the season.

The following season, the Lakers traded for All Star point guard Chris Paul. But before the deal could be finalized, NBA commissioner (who at the time was acting as owner of the New Orleans Hornets), vetoed the deal for “basketball reasons.” Six days later Paul was later traded to the Clippers, where he promptly transformed the culture of the team.

Here we are now in the 2012-2013 season. The Lakers, after trading for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, had title aspirations entering the season. The Clippers, on the other hand, flew in under the radar yet had quietly built the best team in the league.

Which brings us to 17, a number that unites two teams that have always been a world apart.

It’s the number of championships the Lakers would own should they win the title this year, tying them with Boston for the most in NBA history. It is also the number of losses the Lakers will have should they lose to the Clippers Friday, putting them 2 games under .500 and at least 3 games out of the playoffs.

17 is also the length of the Clippers winning streak, the longest in franchise history, which ended Monday against the Nuggets. Until that loss, the Clippers had the best record in the NBA.

With the showdown looming, Los Angeles is forced to ask, is Friday the changing of the guard? For the Lakers, it may be the springboard they need to help salvage their (so far) disappointing season. For the Clippers, it could solidify their arrival as the new elite franchise in Los Angeles.

In the record books, it only counts as only one game. Except, of course, it isn’t. History may belong to the Lakers, but for the Clippers, their time may be now.

– Carlos Delgado, CBS Radio


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