Nothing shocking here: Kobe, LeBron lead All-Star ballot early returns

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We don’t exactly need Nate Silver to break down these voting returns and trends — the players in the lead early in the NBA All-Star balloting almost always stay on top. Occasionally guys close small gaps, but generally what you see now is what you get.

In which case — good job public. No glaring mistakes here.

The league has released the first NBA All-Star Game ballot returns — fan votes choose the five starters for each conference (coaches votes determine the reserves).

When the All-Star Game tips off Feb. 17 in Houston, your likely starters are:

East: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett.

West: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard.

Not shockingly, LeBron is the leading overall vote getter (641,348) with Kobe 1,929 votes back of him.

While I can argue the merits of Chris Bosh starting over Kevin Garnett — he’s having a much better season — or if Tim Duncan should be on there instead of Dwight Howard (whether Duncan wants it or not) there are no egregious choices. Yet. The most obvious is Jeremy Lin, the Rockets guard who is third in backcourt voting in the West, but fortunately more than 50,000 back of CP3.

But I want to come and personally smack all of you that have voted for Andrew Bynum, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Seriously.

Here is the voting as of now — three frontcourt and two backcourt players for each side will start. You can vote online or at games through Jan. 14. So go online on your new tablet and do that on Christmas day rather than listen to your uncle Jerry tell that same story about the time your father broke his leg again.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Frontcourt:
1. LeBron James (Mia) 641,348
2. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 573,112
3. Kevin Garnett (Bos) 218,246
4. Chris Bosh (Mia) 210,724
5. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 151,744
6. Paul Pierce (Bos) 114,735
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 73,366
8. Josh Smith (Atl) 69,344
9. Andrew Bynum (Phi) 68,596
10. Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 64,266

Backcourt:
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 430,925
2. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 382,613
3. Deron Williams (BKN) 211,426
4. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 155,989
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 130,016
6. Monta Ellis (Mil) 47,650
7. Raymond Felton (NYK) 37,974
8. Jason Terry (Bos) 36,147
9. Brandon Jennings (Mil) 35,610
10. Jrue Holiday (Phi) 35,193.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt:
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 605,965
2. Dwight Howard (LAL) 434,168
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 307,855
4. Tim Duncan (SA) 189,577
5. Pau Gasol (LAL) 139,868
6. Kevin Love (Min) 112,922
7. Omer Asik (Hou) 88,178
8. Rudy Gay (Mem) 85,279
9. Serge Ibaka (OKC) 68,285
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 66,290

Backcourt:
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 639,419
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 353,603
3. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 298,319
4. James Harden (Hou) 196,108
5. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 143,437
6. Steve Nash (LAL) 118,073
7. Tony Parker (SA) 69,983
8. Ricky Rubio (Min) 54,744
9. Manu Ginobili (SA) 47,800
10. O.J. Mayo (Dal) 36,495.

Report: Manute Bol’s birthday was made up, may have played in NBA at age 50

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Former NBA center Manute Bol was a sight to behold when he came to the United States for college. At 7-foot-7 and just 200 pounds, his slight frame was always shocking to the eye.

Bol passed away in 2010, but stories about the Sudanese big man have been top of mind lately as his son, Bol Bol, recently committed to play basketball at the University of Oregon.

A recent story has surfaced about the elder Bol and the purported age at which he entered the NBA and played.

According to former Cleveland State coach Kevin Mackey, he was the one who decided Bol’s birthday was October 16, 1962. This was apparently because it wasn’t clear just how old Bol was at the time.

Via Zagsblog:

“I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was,” Mackey, now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, told ZAGSBLOG.

But Mackey says Bol was probably much older and could have been in his 40s or even 50s when he played in the NBA. According to Wikipedia, Manute played in the NBA from his early 20s until his early 30s for various teams, including the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.

“The immigration people were in the office [at Cleveland State] and they thought it was great. They loved it. And they were big fans of Cleveland State, they used to come to all our games. They wanted to cover themselves because Manute was starting to get so much publicity. His picture was in the paper. He was on the 6 o’clock news because he was a such a different looking guy than everyone else. At that time, no one had ever seen anything like it.”
So at that point, Mackey worked with the local immigration office to come up with a birthday for Bol, Oct. 16, 1962
“It was in October, I wanted to make it after Sept. 1,” Mackey said. “I wanted to make sure he was young enough because he didn’t have an age. I think he was [in his 40s], I really do. But there’s no way of ever really knowing.”

Bol didn’t end up playing at Cleveland State, reportedly because his English was not good enough. He wound up playing at the University of Bridgeport before getting drafted by the Washington Bullets with the 31st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.

Mackey is now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, and he is so far the only person telling this story. If it is true, it would have been an incredible feat for Bol to play in the NBA into his 40s.

Patrick Beverley after Clippers’ 9th-straight loss: “This ain’t how I roll”

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The Los Angeles Clippers are bad. The team has lost nine straight games since beating the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 1.

LA has looked discombobulated, and even their stars have struggled. Over the past 10 games, for example, Blake Griffin is shooting an unthinkable 38.2 percent from the field. Griffin’s shooting percentage now sits 10 points below his career average.

So too have guys like DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers struggled, either in scoring the basketball or in effecting resistance on the defensive end. The Clippers are ranked just 21st on defense according to Basketball Reference, a dip from 12th the year before.

Oh, and Danilo Gallinari is hurt, but you probably already saw that coming.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul‘s replacement at PG is Patrick Beverley, an equally tenacious defender and motivator of playoff squads. After Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks, Beverley spoke to reporters about the team needing to play harder and mature faster.

Via the LA Times:

“This … feels like 100 losses,” Beverley said. “Straight up. This … is weak. This ain’t how I roll. That ain’t OK and I won’t allow it to be OK as long as I’m here. That’s a fact.”

“We just got to play harder. That’s it. We just got to play harder. You get rid of the mistakes by playing hard. We’re not playing hard; the first unit, not the whole team. I challenged the first unit to play harder.”

“We too cool. We too cool. We come in this game, we come on the court like people are supposed to back down because of the name on the back of our jerseys and that’s not the case. The only thing people are looking at is the name on the front of our jersey, and that’s nine losses in a row.”

Beverley is an intense dude, but the Clippers issues are systemic and aren’t likely to right themselves. Remember, this is a Western Conference where the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Memphis Grizzlies have all had injuries. Portland has floundered out of the gate. If there was a time to strike, it would be now for LA.

Instead, the Clippers are one of the teams that are struggling along with the rest of the aforementioned teams. I’m not sure what Beverley will be able to do about that.

Steven Adams says Thunder late-game struggles on him, not Westbrook/George/Anthony

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In the first half of games this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 91.7 points per 100 possessions. In those first 24 minutes, the Thunder are outscoring teams by 12.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA (Houston is first).

However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense is 18.1 points per 100 possessions worse. Their offense stagnates late in games with a lot of “you take a turn and then it’s my turn” isolation between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder have nine losses this season, and OKC lost double-digit leads in six of those. Monday night it was a 19-point lead against New Orleans where the Pelicans — without DeMarcus Cousins — came back to win 114-107.

There’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in Oklahoma City, but Steven Adams said less of that should be at the three stars and more of it should be at him. Via Royce Young at ESPN:

“Mainly me, to be honest (should be blamed). Because the play itself you have to execute it properly and it has to be legit down to the t. I screwed up my feet on a couple of them in terms of spacing. … Everyone plays a part in the plight so you can say yeah the shot doesn’t go in which sucks. But to get them that shot I didn’t help them.”

Adams can take on a little of the blame, but this is a team thing right now — everyone has earned some blame. Billy Donovan as coach, role players like Andre Roberson or Patrick Patterson who have not lived up to expectations this season, and yes Westbrook/George/Anthony have earned some blame, too. It’s a little bit of everything.

There’s also time for the Thunder to figure it out, but they are on the clock as this is a one-year experiment in Oklahoma City (no way they pay the whopping tax coming next season to keep all three stars and Adams, no matter what ownership says publicly).

C.J. McCollum: I told Evan Fournier during altercation ‘ you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat’

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C.J. McCollum blew kisses at Evan Fournier when they got into a confrontation during the Trail Blazers’ win over the Magic last week:

But apparently the incident was even better than that!

McCollum on The Flagrant Two podcast, as transcribed by Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com:

“I just felt like he disrespected me by putting his hands on me,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I’m not trying to get any fines or anything of that nature and I told him he was sweet. He’s French, and I said that, ‘you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat.’ “

Did McCollum actually say that in the moment, or did he come up with the line after the fact? I want the former to be true, so I choose to believe it.