NEW YORK - From Kobe Bryant to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin to Andrew Bynum, the NBA All-Star game is shaping up as an L.A. story.
Two Lakers and two Clippers were voted as starters last night 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 the host Magic was the overall leading vote-getter with 1.6 million. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going together again from Miami, while 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 midseason event.
Bryant and Paul will be in the same backcourt two months after the NBA, as owners of the Hornets, killed 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 exciting and 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.
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.
Starters were chosen by fan balloting, and none of the races was close. The reserves will be chosen by voting of the head coaches from each conference and will be announced next Thursday.
Bryant led all West players with 1,555,479 votes. Rose got 1.5 million to finish third among all players, a year after becoming Chicago’s first starter since Michael Jordan.
“I remember not being in the All-Star game, just wanting to be in the game. It’s something you should take to heart, that I take to heart,’’ Rose said before the Bulls’ game against the Knicks. “Just want to accomplish something special while I’m in the league, and one of the accomplishments is being on the All-Star team.’’