LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers have both made significant strides aimed at improving from their 2021-22 season disappointments. With LeBron James extended and Kawhi Leonard back, the Battle of LA will certainly heat up this season. According to former Laker and Clippers guard Norm Nixon, however, the deciding factor in both teams’ seasons will be health.

Nixon attended the 2022 Harold and Carole Pump Foundation Gala in Los Angeles on Friday, where many celebrities and sports stars gathered to bring awareness as well as raise funds for cancer research. Together, David and Dana Pump have raised more than $8.5 million for the Carole Pump Women’s Center, Harold and Carole Pump Department of Radiation Oncology, and the Leavey Cancer Center at Northridge Medical Center and other non-profit community charities.

“We’re here for the Pump brothers,” Norm Nixon said. “This has been kinda like a yearly thing that we do. They raise tons of money for cancer and cancer research. And with the works they’re doing, if our presence can help raise more money, what a small thing to do for all of us.”

This offseason, LeBron James signed a two-year, $97 million extension with the Lakers. The deal locks him in with the Lakers until at least the the 2023-24 season, with a player option for the 2024-25 season. When asked what it means for the franchise, Norm Nixon took a comedic approach.

“It means they can’t sign nobody else,” Nixon joked.

“You can definitely build with him and Anthony Davis. But IF is always health. If they can stay healthy. LeBron has always been healthy, but if Davis can stay healthy, they’ll be good.”

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The Lakers recently acquired guard Patrick Beverley in a trade from with the Utah Jazz. Many believe this means Russell Westbrook is on the way out via a trade. Jovan Buha, the Lakers beat writer for The Athletic, reported that it’s more likely that Westbrook is traded with the arrival of Beverley.

Norm Nixon, however, believes the Lakers can make it work with Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles.

“Absolutely, it can work there,” Nixon told ClutchPoints. “I think Darvin Ham will be able to figure it out. I mean, Russell still has a lot of talent. He’s no the Russell Westbrook he was at 22 [years old] and nobody is that after they’ve played a few years, but Russell has a lot left in his engine.”

Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is expected to make his return to the LA Clippers’ lineup from a 15-month layoff. The team added John Wall in free agency and is looking poised for a championship run. If, of course, they can stay healthy.

“We gotta see how healthy everybody is,” Nixon said. “I don’t jump on these bandwagons. We gotta see if these guys can play and get a string of games together. If they do, you’re gonna have a competitive team as well as the Lakers. They’ll be competitive too – IF they can stay healthy and that’s the if.”

More often than not, the team left standing in the end is the healthiest team. Injuries are part of the game, but the Clippers and Lakers are hoping to avoid setbacks en route to a deep playoff run.