Here it was, in plain sight, the “what if” that had 29 NBA teams holding their breath last July.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard were all wearing the same uniform, Frank Vogel coaching on the sidelines, and a helpless group of defenders watching as the trio carved them up like a holiday ham.
It could’ve been a nightly reality for teams around the league, with Leonard speaking to the Lakers during free agency before eventually signing with the Clippers.
“At the time when it was going down before he decided, you’d think about what the team could be,” Davis said Saturday. “The defensive mindset we could’ve had, the scoring ability we could’ve had. Me, him and LeBron — it’s obviously something that teams would fear.”
The Lakers haven’t missed Leonard, per se, as they lead the Western Conference with 41 wins. And Vogel certainly wasn’t wistful about the opportunity lost when he saw the players together on Sunday.
“I didn’t really go there mentally,” Vogel said. “It was an All-Star game. It’s an exhibition. I had fun with that aspect of it, but I love my Lakers team.”
Leonard said he enjoyed the time with the Clippers’ rivals, saying “we go at each other all year round. ... It’s great to just be able to pick their brains and just be around them and joke and laugh.”
Davis said he had no hard feelings about Leonard’s choice in July.
“I think he just made the league interesting,” Davis said. “He made the league fun. And that’s the great thing about sports. You never know what’s going to happen.”
After helping his team chip away at Team Giannis’ lead throughout the final quarter, it was fitting that Chicagoan Anthony Davis didn’t disappoint under the pressure with the game on the line and the ball in his hand.
After being pulled to the court by Kyle Lowry in the post, Davis had two chances to make the game-winning free throw, converting on the second after the first hit the back iron and bounced out.
“It was a great feeling. The new format was amazing. The game was fun. Bringing defense back to the game, bringing excitement back to the game. We all loved it,” Davis said. “I was happy that I was able to be the one to knock down the free throw to seal it.”
With no Bulls in the All-Star game, Davis represented Chicago, even being announced pregame as coming from the “South Side.”
“Chicago held it down. They held it down this weekend,” Davis said. “They showed the league and everyone around the world about our Chicago history, the city. Everyone enjoyed it, and you kind of respect Chicago a little bit more.”
Former Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook connected with current Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul for an alley-oop slam much to the surprise of the two All-Star benches.
Paul, 34, hasn’t had a slam dunk in a regular-season game since Dec. 28, 2015.
“I ain’t Russ. It’s got to be the perfect throw, everything. So it was cool,” Paul said. “Like I said, it was nice to get an opportunity to play with those guys because three, four days, we’re going to be back to the grind, and it ain’t going to be all that dapping up.”
According to sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, first-year Cleveland coach John Beilein might not be on the Cavaliers sidelines for long. The team and coach have discussed his possible departure despite Beilein signing a five-year contract the Michigan Wolverines last summer. … The coach’s challenge was part of the game for the first time, and both coaches successfully used it, Vogel being the first.
Sign up for Full-Court Text with NBA reporter Dan Woike