For the first year since the 2007 All-Star Game, the host city does not have a player represented in the all-star game. Since the turn of the century, the break has been without a local host only happened four other times. When this last happened the game (and the weekend) was being held in Las Vegas, a non-NBA city which made the absence less conspicuous. Yet on the eve of the break, in one of the most influential cities in the world, the 2018 All-Star Game being held in Los Angeles will not feature a single player from either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers.
This power vacuum is perhaps the most unique of its kind and is fairly unprecedented in the modern NBA era. Typically, though perhaps not explicitly by design, an all-star game features at least one player from the host city’s team. The player isn’t always the most high profile player and is very rarely the games selected MVP, a mostly meaningless award. In fact, that player doesn’t even have to be an all-star to fulfill the role of ambassador for the league. While the title of “host” is largely unofficial, the weight of a successful weekend usually hangs on that player’s shoulders. The implications of this lack of representation of the host city loom large as both teams begin to retool and look towards their future.
When considering for whom this is a worse look, it’s fair to initially take aim at by far the most important sports team in all of Southern California. The Los Angeles Lakers had virtually no chance of fielding a player host in the all-star game this year. With a team filled with young players in their early 20s, cast-offs on their final contract years, and Luol Deng the Lakers knew that their best chance would be the Rising Stars Game. Now even the Rising Stars Game will be without the Lakers’ most important representative with Lonzo Ball injured, and the Clippers have no young players.
The Clippers, for their part, traded away their most likely representative in a season where he also had no chance. Blake Griffin, who had been an all-star every year from 2011-2015, has regressed enough that the Clippers felt comfortable trading him. Whether or not you agreed with the trade (I didn’t) it was more certainly a hard press of the reset button, and now Deandre Jordan waits his turn.
This All-Star Game will be a hard look in the mirror for both franchises as they try and figure out where to go next. The NBA at-large has not noticed this lack of stardom in tinsel town but the denizens of Los Angeles are already growing restless. Thanks to Lakers exceptional front office, the expectation is that at least one and maybe two current all-stars are destined to don the purple and gold within the next calendar year. Clippers fans are less certain with the long storied history of playing second fiddle to the Laker brand. Both are banking on the expected success of this weekend, coupled with the Hollywood lifestyle, will be enough to sell potential free agents.
In many ways what happens, this weekend is independent of whichever players will be on their respective rosters this summer. More than anything this will be a thought project regarding the following: how successful can the NBA be without a star in its second-largest market? If the answer is still “very” then maybe the allure of Los Angeles sunshine and media opportunities doesn’t matter as much to free agents as it has in the past. Either way, this weekend is among the most important to both franchises, in answering who will fill that void, as any in the last five years.