NBA All-Star balloting opens with some interesting questions

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If he doesn’t come back until December, is Kobe Bryant still a starting All-Star guard in the West? Or should Stephen Curry or James Harden have that spot?

Does Kevin Love move past Tim Duncan into the starting lineup?

Is Paul George a starter in the East?

Is it time for a Derrick Rose/Kyrie Irving starting backcourt?

The NBA’s star structure is evolving and it will be interesting to see how that translates to the NBA All-Star game, specifically how fans like yourself will vote on who starts for each conference.

It’s time to think about it (yes, even just two weeks into the season) because you can vote now.

The league officially opened voting today, you can go online and vote at NBA.com/asb, or by SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”), or do so when you attend an NBA game, using one of those quaint paper ballots.

Voting runs through Jan. 20.

Each conference has 60 players on the ballot and voters select the five starters in each conference. Because the list is put together before the season starts by a list of media members, guys who come out of relatively nowhere at the start of the season are not on there. Sorry Michael Carter-Williams, you still get to go to New Orleans for the rookie showcase.

The guys with the most votes from the fans get to start, then the coaches vote to select the rest of the team.

Remember, there is no “center” position anymore, you select two for the backcourt and three for the front court. That might hurt some centers, although I have a feeling Dwight Howard playing in Houston is going to do just fine (thank you international voters).

Here is a list of who made the ballot:

EAST BACKCOURT (24)

Arron Afflalo, Orlando
Ray Allen, Miami
Bradley Beal, Washington
Mario Chalmers, Miami
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Raymond Felton, New York
Gerald Henderson, Charlotte
George Hill, Indiana
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
Brandon Jennings, Detroit
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn
Kyle Lowry, Toronto
O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee
Victor Oladipo, Orlando
Rajon Rondo, Boston
Derrick Rose, Chicago
J.R. Smith, New York
Lance Stephenson, Indiana
Jeff Teague, Atlanta
Evan Turner, Philadelphia
Dwyane Wade, Miami
Kemba Walker, Charlotte
John Wall, Washington
Deron Williams, Brooklyn

EAST FRONTCOURT (36)

Carmelo Anthony, New York
Carlos Boozer, Chicago
Chris Bosh, Miami
Andrew Bynum, Cleveland
Tyson Chandler, New York
Luol Deng, Chicago
Andre Drummond, Detroit
Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn
Rudy Gay, Toronto
Paul George, Indiana
Marcin Gortat, Washington
Danny Granger, Indiana
Jeff Green, Boston
Tobias Harris, Orlando
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia
Roy Hibbert, Indiana
Al Horford, Atlanta
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee
LeBron James, Miami
Al Jefferson, Charlotte
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn
Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Greg Monroe, Detroit
Nene, Washington
Joakim Noah, Chicago
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee
Josh Smith, Detroit
Amar’e Stoudemire, New York
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando
Gerald Wallace, Boston
David West, Indiana
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia

WEST BACKCOURT (24)

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
Mike Conley, Memphis
Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
Stephen Curry, Golden State
Goran Dragic, Phoenix
Monta Ellis, Dallas
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio
Eric Gordon, New Orleans
James Harden, Houston
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans
Ty Lawson, Denver
Damian Lillard, Portland
Jeremy Lin, Houston
Kevin Martin, Minnesota
Steve Nash, LA Lakers
Tony Parker, San Antonio
Chris Paul, LA Clippers
J.J. Redick, LA Clippers
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento
Klay Thompson, Golden State
Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

WEST FRONTCOURT (36)

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans
Omer Asik, Houston
Harrison Barnes, Golden State
Nicolas Batum, Portland
Andrew Bogut, Golden State
Wilson Chandler, Denver
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
Tyreke Evans, New Orleans
Kenneth Faried, Denver
Derrick Favors, Utah
Danilo Gallinari, Denver
Marc Gasol, Memphis
Pau Gasol, LA Lakers
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
Gordon Hayward, Utah
Dwight Howard, Houston
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City
Andre Iguodala, Golden State
DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers
Enes Kanter, Utah
David Lee, Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Kevin Love, Minnesota
Shawn Marion, Dallas
JaVale McGee, Denver
Markieff Morris, Phoenix
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
Chandler Parsons, Houston
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota
Zach Randolph, Memphis
Tiago Splitter, San Antonio
Derrick Williams, Minnesota

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.

Watch Paul George lose JR Smith, put Cavaliers guard on skates with crossover

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Game 4 between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was hotly-contested in the first half. The Cavaliers led, 58-52, after two quarters.

But one special play came when Indiana’s Paul George put JR Smith on his heels, with the Cavaliers guard reeling back some 10 feet after a pull-back crossover left George alone at the 3-point line.

Via Twitter:

You might say George pushed off with his left hand, but you could also point out that Smith then turned a flop-like head kick into an actual blown defensive assignment.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Kobe Bryant’s new Canvas video is brought to you by the letter O (for Obsession)

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Kobe Bryant’s Canvas series returned to our television screen on Saturday. The Sesame Street-like videos center around finding a place to draw motivation from in order to, as the most recent video says, dominate the will of your opponent.

They’re … weird.

They are also extremely Kobe-ish in that they stay true to the former Los Angeles Lakers great’s internal vision of how to play basketball.

The last one we saw was all about finding a musecage, and using your dark thoughts to propel you to win. This one is all about obsession, and how that emotion separates those who like to win from true competitors.

I’m personally all for these videos. They are maybe a little cheesy, or single-minded, but that’s sort of the point. It accurately reflects Kobe, which is something you don’t often see from retired players trying to transition their brand from player to former player.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.