There's no doubt Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers continue a winning tradition that has resulted in 16 NBA titles for the franchise.
There's also no question the best team in town is currently the Los Angeles Clippers, who just welcomed Blake Griffin back to their lineup.
Bryant will play as a visitor for the final time in this rivalry Tuesday night in the opener of a home-and-home set, with the Clippers having won nine straight over the Lakers.
The Lakers (16-60) were the toast of town and the Clippers (48-28) a league laughingstock when Bryant began his career in 1996-97. He won his first 11 starts against the Clippers, who finished last in the seven-team Pacific Division between 1997-2000.
Now the tables have turned, with the Lakers on the verge of matching the franchise record for losses set last year. The Clippers' nine-game win streak in this series has seen Bryant, oft-injured in the final stages of his career, play three times.
"They're the better team, there's no doubt about that right now," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "We know that we have to come in tomorrow and we gotta play a great game against a great team, we've gotta get Chris Paul in check somehow, we've got to keep (DeAndre Jordan) off the boards, we gotta keep them out of their running game."
It'll be a game-time decision as usual whether Bryant plays, though the Clippers are eager to see him in this set that concludes Wednesday. Coach Doc Rivers guided Boston when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals and lost in seven games in 2010.
"Just the 2008 series. Something happened in 2010, I don't remember what happened there," said Rivers when asked about those years. "I just remember how hard he was every night. I mean, he was just tough, physically. I thought both of those series, the mental part of Kobe is what stood out."
Rivers was thrilled to see Griffin back on the floor Sunday for his first action since a 94-84 road win over the Lakers on Dec. 25. The forward had six points and five boards in 24 minutes in a 114-109 victory over Washington.
''It was a blast being back out there,'' Griffin said. ''My rhythm was pretty bad, conditioning was a little bit better than I thought it would be, but not great."
Bryant turned back the clock a bit with his second-highest point total of the season with 34 in Sunday's 107-100 home defeat to the Celtics. He was far from efficient, making 11 of 28 shots and ranks second-worst among qualifying players at 35.6 percent from the field and last on 3-pointers at 28.4.
The Clippers feature the leaders in both categories, with Jordan shooting 70.2 percent and J.J. Redick at 47.1 on 3s.
Scott plans to rest veterans Brandon Bass and Lou Williams for the remainder of the season to give younger players more minutes. Nick Young, who has missed the last 11 games, is also unlikely to see action in the wake of the D'Angelo Russell video scandal.
"Right now, I know what he's going through, and I know it's hard on him," Scott said about Young. "But right now he's not here with us, mentally, and there's no need for me to put him out there on the floor."