Latest NBA All-Star balloting released; LeBron, Durant leading vote getters

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We warned you this would be the case — there are not many changes in the All-Star Game fan voting as we move through the process. Who you vote for early tends to be who you vote for late.

The fans choose the starters for the annual exhibition game and as of Thursday when the vote totals were released for the second time, there are no changes in who is going to start.

There also was no change in the fact LeBron James and Kevin Durant are leading their respective conferences in votes. Which is as it should be.

The All-Star Game is Feb. 16 in New Orelans and here are the likely starters:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Backcourt: Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (Miami Heat), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Backcourt: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers).

As you can see in the vote tallies below, most of these guys are locked in. The only possible change via voting is Kevin Love is just 21,461 votes back of Blake Griffin for the last frontcourt spot in the West. That’s about what the gap was a week ago, nothing much changed. If you don’t think that bothers Love, you didn’t watch him drop 41 points on Blake Griffin and the Clippers last week  (it still wasn’t enough for Minnesota to win the game).

Kobe is a lock to be voted in by fans, he has nearly 200,000 more votes than Chris Paul, who is well ahead of third place Stephen Curry. If Kobe isn’t back from his knee fracture he could surender the spot (likely to Curry, it would be the league’s call). No, Kobe is not going to surrender his spot to Curry either way — a decade ago Vince Carter gave up a spot so Michael Jordan could start his final All-Star Game, but that a very different situation. The league isn’t going to allow it here — if Kobe is healthy enough to play for the Lakers prior to the All-Star Game (as expected) then he will play in New Orleans. The league isn’t letting him out of the obligation.

Here are the vote totals as of Boxing Day:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt
1. LeBron James (Mia) 854,105
2. Paul George (Ind) 712,808
3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 580,795
4. Roy Hibbert (Ind) 304,829
5. Chris Bosh (Mia) 222,861
6. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 137,520
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 101,308
8. Andre Drummond (Det) 91,132
9. Jeff Green (Bos) 78,693
10. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 77,496

Backcourt
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 565,455
2. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 524,000
3. Derrick Rose (Chi) 299,950
4. John Wall (Was) 210,988
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 143,714
6. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 111,335
7. Deron Williams (BKN) 74,047
8. George Hill (Ind) 66,030
9. Lance Stephenson (Ind) 50,444
10. DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 48,744

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt

1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 850,728
2. Dwight Howard (Hou) 408,623
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 399,357
4. Kevin Love (Min) 377,941
5. Tim Duncan (SA) 312,809
6. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 282,613
7. Anthony Davis (NO) 188,589
8. Pau Gasol (LAL) 177,883
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 145,089
10. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 126,025

Backcourt
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 723,031
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 533,647
3. Stephen Curry (GS) 481,698
4. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 358,725
5. James Harden (Hou) 270,476
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 216,070
7. Tony Parker (SA) 158,329
8. Damian Lillard (Por) 105,880
9. Ricky Rubio (Min) 81,829
10. Steve Nash (LAL) 81,377

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”