From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- 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 Thursday for the game, the first time in 15 years that two pairs of teammates have been voted to start for one conference. "It's pretty cool," Griffin said. 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 -- unless he's traded first -- 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. "It's an honor and a privilege to be voted as an All-Star starter," Paul said. "I want to thank the fans for their support. It's even more special to be starting with one of my teammates." Griffin and Bynum are first-time starters, while Bryant earned his record-tying 14th consecutive nod. Griffin said he's not planning on defending his title in the dunk contest, which he won by dunking over a car last year in Los Angeles. "It's not really my thing. I said that last year," he said. Griffin was a reserve selection last year, when he also played in the rookie game. "Last year it was hectic," he said. "I'll try to tone it down and try to get a break." 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. He earned his fourth All-Star MVP award last year, equaling Bob Pettit's NBA record. 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 nearly 1.6 million votes. Rose collected 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." Howard will make his fifth consecutive start, and his status will provide much of the intrigue surrounding the event. He has told the Magic he wants to be traded and they have given his agent permission to talk to select teams, putting the franchise in a difficult position of deciding whether it should deal its superstar before hosting the weekend.
SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled.
A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman.
Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won.
Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day.
“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”
It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island.
The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied.
“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”
Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw.
“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.
No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.
“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”
The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.
“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”
SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse.
Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough.
In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies.
Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night …
—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season.
—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks.
—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit.
—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too
—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)
—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.