From Kobe Bryant to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin to Andrew Bynum, the NBA All-Star game is shaping up as an LA story.
Two Lakers and two Clippers were voted as starters on Thursday for the game, the first time in 15 years that two pairs of teammates have been voted to start for one conference.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant prevented a clean Los Angeles sweep of the Western Conference starting lineup by earning a forward spot for the Feb. 26 game in Orlando.
Dwight Howard of hosts the Orlando Magic — unless he’s traded first — was the overall leading vote-getter with 1.6 million. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going together again from Miami, while Most Valuable Player (MVP) Derrick Rose of Chicago and New York’s Carmelo Anthony round out the East starters.
The Clippers and Lakers are developing a spirited rivalry this season, but they’ll have to get along for a night to give the West a second straight win in the NBA’s mid-season event.
Bryant and Paul will be in the same backcourt two months after the NBA, as owners of the New Orleans Hornets, vetoed a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. Instead, he was dealt shortly after to the Clippers and he has teamed with Griffin to make them one of the league’s most improved teams, leading the Pacific Division over their Staples Center co-tenants.
Griffin and Bynum are first-time starters, while Bryant earned his record-tying 14th consecutive nod.
It’s the first time since 1997, when Houston had Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley, and Seattle sent Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, that two pairs of teammates have been voted to start for one conference.
Bryant joins Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Karl Malone — all one-time Lakers — with his 14th straight starting nod. He earned his fourth All-Star MVP award last year, equaling Bob Pettit’s NBA record.
Bynum grabbed the starting center spot that for years went to Yao Ming, who retired last summer. Griffin was chosen as a reserve forward last year, when he became the first rookie All-Star since Yao in 2003.
The starters were chosen by fan balloting and none of the races were close. The reserves will be chosen by the votes of the head coaches from each conference and will be announced on Thursday.
Bryant led all West players with nearly 1.6 million votes. Rose collected 1.5 million to finish third among all players, a year after becoming Chicago’s first starter since Michael Jordan.
Howard will make his fifth consecutive start and his status will provide much of the intrigue surrounding the event. He has told the Magic he wants to be traded and they have given his agent permission to talk to select teams, putting the franchise in the difficult position of deciding whether it should deal its superstar before hosting the weekend.