LeBron, Curry, Kobe voted All-Star Game starters — but Kobe doesn’t want to play

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You voted for them, so here they are — your 2014 NBA All-Star Game 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), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

When the votes were last released Love was more than 26,000 votes behind ofDwight Howard and 18,000 back of Griffin, but somehow Howard just dropped off the map.

To that, I say well done fans — it’s not that Howard has been bad, but Love has been better. Love deserved this starting nod. More than that, the removal of Howard could free up a frontcourt reserve spot (voted on by the coaches and announced next week) for DeMarcus Cousins and/or Anthony Davis (as well as LaMarcus Aldridge), both of whom have been more deserving based on their play the first half of the season. Although most likely the coaches will pick Howard.

Kobe’s play the first half of the season didn’t earn him a spot —  he’s been in six games between his Achilles and knee injuries — and while the fans voted him in reaction was he didn’t want to go.

Kobe had asked fans to vote for younger players such as Damian Lillard. Curry, with  1,047,281 votes, got more than Kobe (988,884).

If Kobe is healthy enough to play for the Lakers prior to the All-Star Game he would have to get a special waiver from the NBA to skip the All-Star game, and that’s not likely. Not impossible, but this is a showcase event for the league and they want to give the fans what they want. And they want Kobe. That said, if he is out it could free up a spot for someone such as Goran Dragic or Mike Conley, who have played very well the first half of the season and deserve recognition  (Damian Lillard is a lock to be chosen by the coaches as a reserve, along with Chris Paul).

Fan votes determine the All-Star Game starters LeBron was the top vote getter with 1,416,419 votes, followed closely by Durant with 1,396,294 votes.

We got four first time starters this year.  Curry went from the guy snubbed last year to a starter, getting more votes than Chris Paul and vault into a starter’s spot. Love’s late charge makes him a first time starter. Out east, Paul George and Kyrie Irving will get the start.

Errors? There were a couple in my book. We discussed Kobe, he would not have had my vote. I would argue you could start John Wall over Irving, or LaMarcus Aldridge over Griffin, but at least all the guys who got the fan votes are playing well there. 

Now the voting switches to the coaches (or, more accurately, whomever the coaches delegate the task to) to pick the reserves. Those will be announced.

The All-Star Game is Sunday Feb. 16 in New Orleans — be ready for lots of Pierre the Pelican in your grill. The Friday before is the Rising Stars challenge, then on Saturday comes the Dunk Contest, Skills Contest and the rest of that fun.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.