Jordan Poole

Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors drives on Avery Bradley #11 and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center on Feb. 27, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

Over the last 20 years, the Warriors and Lakers are responsible for nine NBA championships. Yet, somehow, a true rivalry has never formed between these two in-state neighbors.

The reason is simple: The two historic franchises have never been good at the same time.

While Kobe Bryant and other stars such as Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol led the Lakers to titles in the early 2000s, the Warriors toiled near the bottom of the league standings. But as the Warriors advanced to five-straight Finals from 2014 to 2019, the Lakers failed to finish better than .500, let alone make the playoffs for a potential showdown with Golden State.

LeBron James’ arrival in LA in 2018 expected to change that, but an injury to him kept the Lakers out of the playoffs in 2019. This past season, injuries and departures sunk the Warriors to a league-worst record of 15-50 while the Lakers went on to claim their first NBA title in 10 years.

“Obviously when LeBron came to LA, it set up a potential rivalry between not only those two star players but our two franchises,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr before Monday night’s game against the Lakers at Staples Center. “Given the injuries over the last couple years, it hasn’t really panned out.

“Now they’re the champions and we’re the ones looking up.”

It seems, finally, the Lakers and Warriors could at least be playoff teams in the same season. The Lakers, with James, Anthony Davis and the swagger that comes with a championship ring, are widely-considered favorites to repeat.

Meanwhile, the Warriors — even without Klay Thompson, sidelined for the season with an Achilles tear — aim to return to the postseason with a healthy Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and a reshaped supporting cast.

So far, the Warriors have had moments of looking like a playoff team. To do so, James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in November’s draft, will need to blossom into a defensive anchor and put pressure on opposing defenses as a lob threat. Andrew Wiggins will need to provide timely scoring and help defend James and the NBA’s other top wings, and Kelly Oubre Jr. will have to snap out of a season-opening shooting slump.

How this new-look roster jells over the next few months will determine whether or not a rivalry can finally brew between two teams with star power, fan support and decorated histories.

“Our goal this year is to establish ourselves as a playoff team and hopefully take the next step from there and really become a contender again,” Kerr said. “But we have a lot of work to do.”

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