Lakers, Clippers are back on the marquee

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LOS ANGELES--In February of last year, the best basketball players in the world came to Staples Center to put on a star-studded show.

Jack Nicholson, Jamie Foxx, Justin Bieber, Queen Latifah and Arnold Schwarzenegger were among the celebrities in a crowd of more than 17,000 who paid an average of $1,900 a ticket to watch 23 NBA All-Stars strut their stuff.

For locals, it was the only opportunity to see more than one or two of the league's top players in a game in person. Los Angeles, a mecca of the sport, was host to an All-Star game without a Lakers or Clippers player on a roster.

How embarrassing.

Less than 16 months later, everything has changed. After some bold decisions by both teams in recent days, Staples Center will be the epicenter of the sport for at least 82 games next season -- because four of the NBA's seven best players are now either Lakers or Clippers.

The Lakers followed LeBron James' decision to join them last summer by acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in a massive trade three weeks ago. Then, late Friday night, the Clippers made their move, signing reigning NBA Finals' Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard in free agency and trading for Oklahoma City's Paul George.


Suddenly those L.A. teams that were bereft of All-Stars are loaded with them.

"Kawhi, you got your team, the Clippers. LeBron, you got your team, the Lakers," Magic Johnson told the Los Angeles Times shortly after the dust cleared. "Now, let's see what happens."

In Davis, the Lakers added what might be the most talented young player in the league; he's 26. In Leonard and George, the Clippers added a pair of homegrown superstars in their prime to a cast that extended the mighty Golden State Warriors to six games in the last NBA playoffs. Leonard played in high school in Riverside; George in Palmdale.

It will be up to those players to see if the Lakers and Clippers can deliver something Los Angeles has never seen: a real rivalry between NBA teams playing under the same roof; maybe even a playoff series between them with a stake in the NBA championship series on the line.


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