These two phrases have become synonymous.
Anthony Davis: All-Star.
DeMarcus Cousins: All-Star.
And those words made for a historic night Thursday.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ frontcourt tandem is headed to Los Angeles together next month, as both were selected as starters for the NBA’s midseason showcase. It’s the first time in franchise history the Pelicans will have two starters.
Davis will appear for the fifth consecutive year, his third time as a starter. There, the forward can try to repeat as Most Valuable Player, an award which he won by scoring 52 points in last year’s All-Star Game at the Smoothie King Center.
Cousins makes his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, although this is his first start and his first selection as a member of the Pelicans, who acquired him last February.
He’s the first player besides Davis to represent New Orleans since Chris Paul demanded a trade in 2011.
Even though Davis and Cousins’ numbers are slightly down from their career bests, each is perched among the NBA’s leaders in the most vital categories.
Davis is averaging 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, and was a nearly consensus choice from the fans (50 percent), media (25 percent) and fellow players (25 percent), who combine to decide on the 10 starters participating in the All-Star Game.
Cousins was a less of a lock, despite posting 25.3 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. He was not amongst the West frontcourt’s top three vote-getters by either the media or the fans (coming in fourth) but was in third place by the players, breaking the tie in his favor.
Davis and Cousins will be joined by mostly familiar faces on the Staples Center floor when the game tips off at 7 p.m. Feb. 18.
However, the pair of Pelicans won’t necessarily be playing together, because the All-Star Game isn’t so cut and dried this time around.
While the rosters feature an equal number of players from each conference, the NBA scrapped the classic East vs. West format in favor of a system that allows Stephen Curry and LeBron James — the leading vote-getters from each side — to choose their teams from a pool of starters and backups.
They’ll hold a draft next week after the All-Star reserves are selected by the league’s coaches and announced Tuesday night. The full teams, as chosen by Curry and James, will be unveiled next Thursday night.
Despite clamoring on social media, the draft will not be televised.
Among the starters, Davis and Cousins headline the Western Conference frontcourt alongside Golden State’s Kevin Durant. Curry joins Houston shooting guard James Harden in the backcourt.
The Eastern Conference also features familiarity, led by James. He’s flanked by Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, Boston point guard Kyrie Irving, Milwaukee swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid (the only starter also making his All-Star debut).
So, the only teams with a pair of All-Star starters are the reigning champion and NBA-leading Golden State Warriors, and the Pelicans, who are 23-21 and tied for sixth place in the West.
It set off a debate in the TNT studios Tuesday night as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith debated the merits of a team possessing two All-Star starters while battling to just make the playoffs.
“It’s interesting the Pelicans are not a better team,” Smith said. “When you have two guys who are considered two of the best five players in the West, and you can’t win basketball games. That’s an interesting problem.”