Rumor has it there are two NBA teams in Los Angeles. Former Kentucky star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander believes this.
Gilegeous-Alexander, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on the night of the NBA Draft, does not concede that the Los Angeles Lakers hold dominion over basketball in Southern California.
Even the immense shadow of LeBron James, who signed with the Lakers this offseason, could not make Gilgeous-Alexander concede that he’ll be out of the limelight as a Clipper.
“Personally, if I recall, the Clippers have been the better team in L.A.,” Gilgeous-Alexander said Thursday. “The past year or so. They have to beat us to be the big bro.”
Confirmation of the opinion that the Clippers do not need to defer to the Lakers seemed in order.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We don’t back down to anybody.”
Gilgeous-Alexander spoke highly of the Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer.
“He’s a really energetic guy,” he said. “Really good guy. Really genuine. . . . Just being with a guy like that, his presence is really a blessing.”
Startling improvement marked Gilgeous-Alexander’s season with Kentucky. He did not start the season’s first nine games and did not become a full-time starter until Jan. 9.
Thereafter, Gilgeous-Alexander became a weather vane for how Kentucky could fare. The better he played, the better chance UK would win. This was never more true when he was named Most Valuable Player of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Diligence and eagerness to improve marked his UK season. He sounded ready to make those qualities part of his NBA experience.
“For me, it’s about getting better every day,” he said. “That’s the main thing. . . . Just focus on my grind day in and day out.”