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For one night, Lakers and Clippers will work together

Four of the five starters for the Western Conference in Sunday's NBA All-Star game are from Los Angeles teams, two each from the Lakers and Clippers.

February 25, 2012|By John Cherwa
  • Instead of trying to keep each other under wraps, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Clippers point guard Chris Paul will be working together to help the West All-Stars try to defeat the East on Sunday in Orlando.
Instead of trying to keep each other under wraps, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Orlando, Fla. -- Try as one might to build a scenario of things that just don't go well together, no one is buying it this time.

This is less like cats and dogs and more like bacon and eggs.

Yes, Lakers and Clippers can get along and enjoy the experience. Sunday, Los Angeles has four-fifths of the Western Conference starting lineup in the NBA All-Star game, an event of grandiose proportions and minuscule importance.

The only real surprise is that each team has two starters. Did anyone ever expect to see four L.A. starters?

"Yeah," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "They would just be in Laker uniforms."

Joking aside, Bryant says all the right things about his Hallway Series counterparts.

"I enjoy playing with Chris [Paul] a great deal. I enjoy playing with Blake [Griffin]. We had a good time last year during the All-star game.... The Clippers have had a great turnaround. Los Angeles is obviously well represented."

Bryant and Paul were starters at last year's game at Staples Center. Paul was playing with the New Orleans Hornets. Imagine what would happen if they were actually on the same team? Guess that won't happen.

"Kobe is a really good shooter," Paul said about his one-night-a-year teammate. "So, [I'll be] creating and getting to the lane and kicking it out and stuff like that so he's able to shoot open shots. It's fun playing off our game."

Even Bryant admits the All-Star game gives him certain opportunities.

"To be honest, it's probably the only time all season when they play me single coverage," he said. "So I really enjoy it."

Lakers center Andrew Bynum is the only one making his All-Star game debut.

"I think I had the opportunity to make it a couple years ago and then I got hurt," Bynum said. "That's never fun. It takes a lot of time. But I'm just happy that my injuries have been ones I can recover from and come back and get strong again without any lingering effects."

This is Griffin's second time through the All-Star weekend, having stirred the crowd last year by jumping over the hood of a car to win the dunk competition. This year, especially with the compact schedule, he's playing it a little quieter.

He played only 10 minutes Friday night in the Rising Stars game and decided to skip the dunk contest Saturday night.

"It's been fun," Griffin said of this year's event. "It's a little less hectic than last year. It's a little more enjoyable, so I'm going to try and keep it that way."

Griffin and Paul have had some time to get to know each other on and off the court.

"I don't think we played much together last year [in the All-Star game]," Paul said. "But now I know him a little bit better.... With all the other guys on the court, if you help him with a dunk, you're leaving Kevin Durant wide open for a three. So you've got to pick your poison."

Durant of Oklahoma City is the trivia answer, the fifth starter.

So, with everyone just a half note away from a full-out family singalong, you look to Bryant to bring things back into perspective.

"At the All-Star game we get to enjoy each other's company," Bryant said. "We're all friends off the court. But when we're playing on the court during the regular season, it's a different story."

Saturday was Bryant's first media appearance at All-star weekend, having missed Friday's session because he was said to be sick.

"Ate something bad," he said, smiling, with no elaboration.

But Bryant was gracious, peppered with impertinent questions and requests to do shout-outs to never-heard-of broadcast outlets. But when asked if the Clippers were in the NBA Finals would he root for them, he raised his mirth level with pretend anger.

"What type of question is that to ask me?" Bryant said. "I'm glad I was sick the other day so I didn't have to answer questions like that."

When pressed, Bryant did say what he'd be doing.

"I'd be in the islands somewhere. How about that?"

john.cherwa@latimes.com

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