Kobe, LeBron, Howard lead NBA All-Star starters

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Well fans, you got the game you wanted. And it should be a good one (as defenseless exhibitions go). Good on ya.

The NBA has announced the starters for the All-Star game, as voted in by the fans. Usually there are a painful choice or two, but this year it’s a solid group. We can quibble, but there is no outright disaster.

Here are the starters you picked:

Eastern Conference:

Guards: Derrick Rose (Chicago), Dwyane Wade (Miami)
Forwards: LeBron James (Miami), Carmelo Anthony (New York)
Center: Dwight Howard (Orlando)

Notes: Dwight Howard got the most votes of any player, 1.6 million, but Derrick Rose was only about 86,000 back of him and LeBron was third in the vote getting in the East.

Fan mistake: Not sure there was a glaring one. If I could make one change it would be to remove Carmelo Anthony and replace him with Orlando’s Ryan Anderson or Miami’s Chris Bosh, as ‘Melo has struggled in his point-forward role for the Knicks. Anderson has been a revelation for the Magic and Bosh has started to find his stride and space in Miami (at least with Wade out). But ‘Melo is still a guy putting up big numbers carrying the Knicks..

Western Conference

Guards: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
Forwards: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
Center: Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers)

Notes: This is Kobe’s 14th time an All-Star starter, moving him one ahead of Jordan on that list. (Most All-Star games ever? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 18.) Kobe also led the West with 1.5 million votes (second most overall), Durant was second in the West with 1.3 million. Blake Griffin and Andrew Bynum are each making their first All-Star start.

Fan mistake: Four of the five starters are from Los Angeles? Again, nothing that really bothers me a lot, but I would swap Kevin Love into the starting lineup and have Blake Griffin come off the bench. I prefer Love’s well-rounded game and think he carries more of a load with his team. I might put LaMarcus Aldridge ahead of him, too. But Griffin is playing well, he is far from a bad choice.

Coaches will choose the reserves, and that is going to be where the hard decisions are. Those come in a week.

Jared Dudley: Giannis Antetokounmpo practiced mean mugging in locker room

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Game 3 dunk over Aron Baynes was great.

Antetokounmpo’s Game 4 dunk over Al Horford (seen above) is even better, because of the fantastic mean mug that followed.

The rise of Antetokounmpo is no accident. He worked hard to develop his on-court skills. And that includes all aspects.

Suns forward Jared Dudley, who played with Antetokounmpo on the 2014-15 Bucks:

This is the inside info we need.

Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.

“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’

“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’

Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.

But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.

When Kristaps Porzingis returns is the biggest variable. But Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are all in their primes. Atlanta is much thinner.

The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.

The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.

Andrew Bogut signs to play in NBL in native Australia

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Back in January, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Andrew Bogut. He had a very limited role on a Los Angeles team that was not making the playoffs, serving as a backup big man against teams who use a traditional center. That’s not much of a role anymore. He’s a center who can pass, shoot from the midrange a little, and knows where to be defensively, but the game has evolved as Bogut’s skills have faded. Bogut tried to latch on with a contender for the playoffs, but could not find a team to take him.

So he is going home.

Bogut is signing to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL.

Bogut was the first No. 1 draft pick from Australia when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005. He made the All-Rookie team that season, was All-NBA in 2010, but may be best known for his role as a crucial part of the defense of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015 (and his injury during the 2016 Finals is an underrated reason Cleveland was able to pull off a miracle comeback).

At age 33 Bogut may not have a spot in the NBA, but in the NBL he both will thrive for a few more years but also be a huge draw and get the welcome home from fans that he deserves.

When Lance Stephenson gets a traveling call, he earns it (VIDEO)

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Yes, guys get away with traveling in the NBA. James Harden on the step back (sometimes, not always), or guys sliding left/right to avoid a closeout at the arc and not bothering to dribble while they do it.

Lance Stephenson got called for traveling Sunday in the Pacers’ loss to the Cavaliers. In a game where Stephenson got under the skin of LeBron James and drew a technical (and tied him up for a jump ball at one point), this was the best Lance highlight of the game. Because if you’re going to travel, you should go all in.

Never change Lance. Never change.