NBA

All-Star Game looks like NBA's future

FOX Sports MITCH LAWRENCE
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NEW YORK

It’ll be the East versus the West when the NBA plays its All-Star Game on Sunday in Staples Center.

But you can go ahead and think about it as the Celtics/Heat versus the Lakers/Future Lakers.

How could you not?

As you might have noticed, the NBA is becoming a league of super-teams, filled with All-Star players.

Seven members of Boston and Miami are on the East roster. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be representing the Lakers, with several other All-Stars, including Dwight Howard, who wouldn’t mind playing for L.A. in the future.

Kevin Durant is about the only throwback in the bunch. As far as we can tell, he’s never talked about teaming up with another mega-star, and he’s quite content to be playing in small-market Oklahoma City. What's wrong with him?

Durant belongs to the NBA whose motto is “Where Amazing Happens.’’ But that’s terribly dated.

It should be, “Where Superpowers Happen.’’

“It’s big now for guys to play together and they’ve been doing it since they were playing AAU ball, back in high school,’’ Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. “Players get to know each other earlier and when they come in the league they’re already friends. So it’s a different world than it used to be, when we had superstars who didn’t want to team up.’’

Those were the days when the All-Star Game was when the best players came together for one weekend out of the entire season. Now, the All-Star Game is just one more weekend they can pal around with their everyday teammates, or future teammates.

Out in L.A. there figures to be a lot of buzz centering on Blake Griffin, and not just because he’s already been handed the trophy for the dunk contest. Where he takes his talents in the future is bound to come up, since everybody thinks he’ll be moving on from the Clippers the first chance he gets. He can always just move down the hallway in Staples to the Lakers’ locker room. By then, Howard might be in there, winning titles with the purple and gold.

POLL

  • What are you most excited to see during All-Star weekend?
    • Blake Griffin in the dunk contest
    • Kobe vs. LeBron in the All-Star Game
    • Justin Bieber in the celebrity game
    • Yawn. Wake me on Monday

With so many All-Stars looking to hook up with their peers on a full-time basis, it probably won’t be long before the regular season totally mirrors these All-Star weekend gatherings.

We’re in the age of the superpower team, with superstars who can’t wait to get to free agency to find another superstar to play with. Which means that there will be a crush of media members at Carmelo Anthony’s table at Friday’s interview session. Not asking about Denver. But the Knicks.

The crowds of reporters, bloggers and TV people won’t be lacking for Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul, because they’ll be free agents in 2012 and are looked at as obvious candidates to move to another team with stars.

Most famously, at the All-Star Game in Phoenix two years ago, LeBron James was asked what one member of Team USA he wanted one day to team with. James didn’t even take a nanosecond to think about it.

“Chris Bosh,’’ he said.

Talk about giving everybody a really big hint.

Only nobody expected the two to join forces in Miami.

Here we are two years later and James’ dream is a reality. Along with Dwyane Wade, Miami has three players. Boston, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, has four. Together, the two best teams in the East have seven of the 12 spots.

As soon as the reserves were announced and lineups were set, East coach Doc Rivers revealed that he’d like to play his four All-Stars together during the game on Sunday. Who’d be the fifth player on the floor for the East?

“Probably somebody who’s going to be a free agent (this summer),’’ Rivers said. “We’ll give him a taste of what it would be like.’’

Rivers laughed at his statement, but as he knows, there’s a lot of truth to it.

Imagine if the Heat overcome their size problems and can figure out a way to stop Rajon Rondo if they see the Celtics this spring. Then Miami just might get to the Finals for a chance to win the ring that has always eluded James. If James gets his ring, superstars will be clamoring even more to copy the Heat’s model for success. And excess.

Because the Knicks and Lakers have the resources to accommodate the league’s top free agents, that could mean more Miami-type lineups in those two places in the future. That would be a good option for players like Kevin Love, who could do wonders for his career by getting out of Minnesota.

We’ve been hearing about the Knicks putting together their own All-Star team since last summer. Once Amar’e Stoudemire was in the fold, then we started to catch wind of how Anthony and Paul would soon be following Stoudemire to the Garden. What better way to combat Miami’s Super Trio?

Remember Paul’s toast at Anthony’s wedding, which was delivered with LeBron James sitting not far from the Hornets’ star playmaker?

“We’ll form our own Big Three,’’ Paul said, as James looked on.

Imagine, an All-Star team in New York, even when it’s not All-Star weekend.

But in this day and age, every weekend shapes up as All-Star weekend.

Tagged: Celtics, Pelicans, Lakers, Heat, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo

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