LOS ANGELES -- The Staples Center could be awfully busy come late April when the NBA regular season ends and the postseason begins.
Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown expects the Los Angeles Clippers to still be playing at that point.
“They should be [in the postseason],” Brown said before the Clippers hosted the Lakers on Saturday. “They’re more than talented to be a playoff team when you talk about Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan … That’s a pretty good team right there. So, they should be in the playoffs.”
The Clippers haven’t qualified for the postseason since the 2005-06 season and have made the playoffs just four times total since relocating from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.
Coming into Saturday, the Lakers had the second-best record in the Western Conference at 9-4, while the Clippers had the fifth-best at 5-3, including an impressive overtime win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
The Clippers beat the Lakers in both of the preseason meetings between the two teams by an average of 12 points per game. The Lakers had 44 turnovers in the two games combined.
The preseason performances gave Brown cause for concern heading into the first of three regular season games the teams will play.
“There’s a lot that concerns me, but the pick-and-roll game, the skill game, the transition game is probably the biggest thing,” Brown said. “Chris Paul is one of the best pick-and-roll players in the business. He gets in the middle of your defense and makes the game easy for everybody else.”
Brown said he had considered matching Kobe Bryant or Matt Barnes up defensively with Paul instead of putting Derek Fisher or Darius Morris, fellow point guards, on him in a late-game situation.
But it wasn’t just Paul that Brown was worried about.
“They have dynamic, athletic rollers in Griffin and Jordan and then they got a stretch-4 in [Brian] Cook and some toughness in other guys with [Reggie] Evans and so on and so forth,” Brown said. “So, you couple that with some heady veterans that they got on their team in Caron Butler and Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups and you have a formidable team right there.”
Brown also had praise for Griffin, last season’s Rookie of the Year.
“You’re not going to stop him, so you just hope you make him work for his points,” Brown said. “You got to try to box him out, because you ain’t gonna jump with him.”
As Brown was talking about Griffin, Lakers backup shooting guard Jason Kapono made his way by Brown and a pack of reporters and into the locker room.
Said Brown: “Kapono! Can you jump with Blake?”
“What?” Kapono responded.
“Can you jump with Blake on the weakside glass?” Brown expanded.
“No and I won’t take a charge either,” Kapono said, causing Brown to break out into a hearty laugh.
“The reality of it is, he’s very strong, he’s very athletic,” Brown continued. “He’s an All-Star. He can score. So you just hope you make him work for his points and what I mean by that is, you try and keep him in front of you and you try to have him score over the top of you the best you can. You try not to let him get anything easy, but with the passers they have, he’ll get a few lob dunks and you just hope that you can play through it and if the crowd doesn’t get too caught up in it and get those guys too energized.”
The coach was later asked if he could sense any of the fans’ excitement in L.A. surrounding the first regular-season matchup between the Lakers and the new-look “Lob City” Clippers.
“Do I sense it? Yes,” Brown said. “Do I care? No."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.