2012 NBA All-Star Game

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.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.

Warriors F Draymond Green kicks Marquese Chriss in the hand (VIDEO)

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Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was not punished with an additional fine for kicking Houston Rockets G James Harden in the face on Dec. 1. Perhaps that emboldened him to kick another opponent just two days later in Phoenix Suns rookie Marquese Chriss.

While attempting a rip through move on Chriss in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game, Green could be seen kicking Chriss in the hand.

Chriss, in some obvious pain, immediately ran over to the bench and was replaced by Jared Dudley.

Meanwhile, Green didn’t even draw a foul. On the other end of the floor, P.J. Tucker was trying to fight through a screen and was called for both a personal foul and a technical foul after arguing.

It seems that there’s not much stopping Green from trying to damage opponents. He infamously missed Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals due to his extracurricular activity, his absence perhaps acting as the catalyst to swing a series in which the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There was no fine for kicking the league’s best MVP candidate in Harden, and no reaction from officials for kicking Chriss.

This came just a day after Green complained about how the league was treating him and how he should control his body.

In the last six months, Green has hit or kicked Harden, Chriss, Kyrie Irving, Allen Crabbe, and Steven Adams (twice).

Suns coach Earl Watson cautions support for marijuana use a “slippery slope”

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Earl Watson of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 30, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Warriors defeated the Suns 106 -100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr is a thoughtful, measured adult who made a very rational decision: He was battling debilitating back pain that was keeping him away from the Warriors, so he chose to try marijuana to try to ease that pain. It didn’t work for Kerr, but he advocated for professional sports leagues to have a more open mind toward allowing the drug to be used for pain management.

Suns’ coach Earl Watson is a thoughtful, measured adult who comes from a very different world than Kerr, and that gives him a different perspective. Watson’s story is that of a child who grew up in poverty, surrounded by violence, in Kansas City, and used basketball to pull himself out of that world.

Watson urged caution in NBA coaches endorsing the use of marijuana, speaking to Chris Haynes of ESPN.

“I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool,” Watson told ESPN on Saturday after the Suns’ 138-109 loss to the Warriors. “It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric…

“I think it would have to come from a physician — not a coach,” Watson said. “And for me, I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs]. I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.

“So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.”

There is no doubt that as a society, the United States is moving toward the legalization of marijuana. More and more states move that way each election, and the generational shift in attitudes toward the drug is an unstoppable trend.

How the NBA (and other professional sports leagues) adjust their rules and procedures in dealing with this will be a topic in the coming years. With that is the issue Watson brings up — the image the NBA projects on the issue. NBA players are free to drink alcohol, but it can’t impact them at work (like just about every other job), but the NBA doesn’t want to be seen as pro-drinking. It will have to find a way to walk that same line with marijuana.

Dirk Nowitzki will not fade away: “I’m all-in. I want to play.”

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 21:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 21, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Dirk Nowitzki has played in just two of the Mavericks’ last 13 games, and five games total all season. When he has played he hasn’t been his vintage self, he’s been slowed by injury. This is a 38-year-old battling a sore Achilles, and Dallas doesn’t want to see its future Hall of Famer limping off into retirement, and he is out indefinitely. They are being cautious.

But make no mistake, Nowitzki wants to play. He doesn’t see himself as done.

Here is what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I’m all-in. I want to play,” Nowitzki said in front of his locker after his teammates pulled off the Mavs’ most lopsided win of the season, a 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls that improved Dallas’ record to a Western Conference-worst 4-15. “This is obviously not a career-ending injury that I’ve got. It’s something that just keeps lingering unfortunately. I can hopefully get over it.

“There’s still a lot of season left. December just started. We know that there’s a lot of games coming, so hopefully sometime soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup with soreness or fight this whole year. I’d love to be healthy and stay out there once I go….

“It’s frustrating for me,” said Nowitzki, a 19-year veteran who has missed more than 10 games in a season only once before in his career. “The whole situation is frustrating to be dealing with something I never have before in my career, so it’s tough. But once I’m out there, I don’t want the same thing to happen again that just happened last week, so I want to make sure now it’s good to go. At this stage of my career, I don’t move well anyways, so if I’m out there at 80-90 percent, I don’t think I’m a big help. I want to make sure my body’s responding the right way and we’ll go from there.”

At this point, Dallas has dug too deep a hole to climb back up and make the playoffs, but Nowitzki doesn’t want the Kobe Bryant send-off tour. When he returns, Dallas will get better.

Watch Nowitzki get in a sweat before a game now — even when he is not playing he puts in a thorough workout — and you see a model for how other players should take both their craft and conditioning more seriously. He is meticulous about the details but is going to get in his work. The problem for him is with an Achilles it’s going to be about rest. He can get treatments, but time is his biggest ally.

Being patient sucks. But that’s where we are with getting to see Nowitzki play again.