Clippers, Lakers get to work at Staples Center

( - The battle of the Staples Center occupants will be the final tilt in Tuesday's opening night extravaganza as the Lakers and Clippers square off.

These Los Angeles teams have built quite a rivalry and it's fitting they duel on the first night of the 2013-14 NBA season.

Adding fuel to this budding feud, which has seen the Clippers become the power in the Pacific Division, new Clips coach Doc Rivers made the call to cover the Lakers championship banners when the Clippers are the home team.

Some Lakers, mostly new swingman Nick Young, who has been responsible for exactly zero of their championship banners, criticized the idea, but it's just another compelling angle between two fascinating teams.

For the Clippers, Rivers is in town and came at a steep price, and not in the form of his paycheck. The Clippers had to trade the Boston Celtics a first- round pick for Rivers' services.

That move helped sure up the most important piece in the whole equation - Chris Paul. The All-NBA point guard re-upped with the Clips for five years and humongous money.

Next, the Clippers traded Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe to bring in some desperately needed shooting help. J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, both solid NBA professionals, will man the wings with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Clearly, after a disappointing first-round playoff exit to the Memphis Grizzlies, and despite a franchise-best 56 wins, the Clips needed to change the culture.

Are they ready to take the next step?

"That's the plan, clearly, but I think our team will tell us," Rivers said. "Our team will tell us if we're ready to make that next step. I think we are, but I hate to have it nondescript. What is the next step? I don't really like taking steps. I like taking jumps."

It would require a massive jump for the Lakers to be contenders again soon.

After a disastrous 2012-13 season, which saw the firing of head coach Mike Brown five games in, and constant power struggles between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, the Lakers look for stability.

Howard bolted to the Houston Rockets and few people cared. ("Honestly, man, I don't really give a s---," was Bryant's response media day about Howard's departure.)

But the bigger problem for head coach Mike D'Antoni this season isn't how to replace Howard, it's how to stay afloat without Bryant. The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history tore his Achilles in April and his return to action has no timetable.

"He'll back when he can get back," D'Antoni said. "I'm sure he's making progress, but he'll be back as soon as he can."

In Bryant's absence, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will lead the Lakers, both trying to make up for disappointing campaigns.

D'Antoni hasn't decided what his starting lineup will be as of Tuesday morning, juggling in his mind whether to start a traditional big man like Chris Kaman alongside Gasol, or Shawne Williams, a "stretch four," as is the trendy new term.

The Clippers swept all four games last season against the Lakers.