Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant still leads everyone in All-Star voting

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With his worldwide popularity — he sells more jerseys in China than Yao Ming — it shouldn’t be a shock that Kobe Bryant is on top of the NBA’s All-Star balloting.

The second round of released vote totals has Bryant with 1,153,694, well ahead of second place overall and Eastern Conference leader Dwight Howard (988,572).

Really, there is only one questionable decision on both rosters — Western Conference center. Yao Ming far and away has the most votes (thank you China!) but he will not play due to injury. Second on the list is Andrew Bynum, who now has played all of eight games this season and started one due to injury. Really, on merit from this season the best guys on the ballot are Nene or Marc Gasol, but both are far back in vote totals.

However, if Yao wins the NBA could do something smart (as pointed out by Tom Ziller at SB Nation) — start the Lakers Pau Gasol at center. He is listed on the ballot as a forward (and he is third in the voting behind Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony) but he has played most of this season at center and still plays that spot some every game. It makes more sense to slide Gasol into the starting center spot than to give it to Bynum (unless Bynum passes Ming in voting, something not likely as he is more than 200,000 votes behind).

As of now, the starters in the West as selected by fans would be Chris Paul, Kobe, Durant, Anthony and whoever replaces Yao at center. (Just because someone will ask, if Carmelo Anthony were traded to the East before the All-Star game his votes would move with him, but right now he would be fourth in that conference’s voting at forward.)

In the East, the starters would be Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (but Derrick Rose could catch Rondo, it will be close), LeBron James and Kevin Garnett at forwards (with Amar’e Stoudemire third), and Howard at center.

Voting remains open and can be done online at The All-Star Game is Feb. 20 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.