L.A.'s four All-Stars ready for stretch run, healthy and hopeful again

The promise in the summer of 2019 was that basketball in Los Angeles would never quite be the same.

The Lakers, one year removed from signing LeBron James, cashed in their young talent from their post-Kobe Bryant rebuild to land Anthony Davis. The Clippers, with the memories of the “Lob City” era still fresh, rebuilt their team on a single night, signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency while dealing for Paul George.

In an instant, four of the top players in the league all called Los Angeles their home.

Sunday, in what’s been a rarity, they were all in the middle of things again, all healthy and all members of the Western Conference All-Star team. Since they all moved to L.A., they’d all been All-Stars only one other time — in 2021 in the closed-set All-Star Game in Atlanta.

But in Indianapolis on Sunday, they were all back and playing in the highest-scoring All-Star Game in history.

“It’s great,” George said. “With injuries in general, I think they’ve gone up over the past couple years. I think it’s great we can share the floor with one another. I think it’s great for L.A. that we’ve been able to compete, especially this season. For the most part, everybody’s healthy.

“To overcome that … it’s one thing to be healthy and another thing to still be so productive in the league with dealing with the injuries [we’ve] dealt with. It just speaks volumes for their work and where they’re at in their careers right now.”

The Clippers have risen to the top of the Western Conference after adding James Harden alongside George and Leonard. Leonard’s shooting 45.3% from three-point range this season, the best of his career. George is averaging 22.5 points while shooting almost 40% from three — both benefitting from Harden’s addition as a lead playmaker.

The Lakers, who have had more ups and downs through the season, won six of their last seven games before the All-Star break. James is averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists in his 21st season, unprecedented numbers. And Davis is one of the league’s top defenders to go with 24.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

The Clippers (36-17) have pushed toward the top of the Western Conference standings, resuming play Thursday in Oklahoma City in third place behind the Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16) and Thunder (37-17). The Lakers (30-26), who have hovered around .500 all season, also return to play Thursday on the road at Golden State (27-26), the Pacific Division rivals currently ninth and 10th in the West.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” Davis said. “Not too many guys can say they’ve been an All-Star, especially for the nine times that I have, nine times. You never take it for granted.

“Even with the injuries last year, I feel like I could have made it still. Year before, probably not, but last year. So just getting back to being recognized as one of the top players in the league. It’s just a credit to my team, my trainers and stuff like that to make sure that I’m healthy for the entire year and then just get back to the level that I’ve been playing at.”

For the two All-Star duos, just being available is a huge step toward fulfilling the promise of 2019.

Since the Lakers traded for Davis and the Clippers added George and Leonard, the Lakers and Clippers have met 18 times. All four have played in just six of those games, and each has missed at least four of them.

Yet as the team’s head into the final stretch of this season, they are, as of now, healthy. James, who is dealing with a nagging ankle injury, said he even felt healthy enough to reaffirm his commitment for the 2024 Paris Olympics — when all four could be on the same team again.

“I’m feeling OK,” James said after Sunday’s game. “I definitely wasn’t going to put too much pressure on the game tonight for me physically. I want to try to be as healthy as I can be physically. This last part of the season is very important for us. I got to make sure of that.”

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