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

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?