Dan Feldman

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James, Stephen Curry lead All-Star fan voting

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LeBron James still leads All-Star fan voting.

Second place overall? Kyrie Irving, who held the mark behind his Cavaliers teammate in the first returns, has fallen behind Warriors Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Here are the latest leaders:

Eastern Conference

Guards

1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 971,362

2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 514,866

3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 453,538

4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 401,671

5. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 256,668

6. Derrick Rose (NYK) 223,804

7. John Wall (WAS) 173,148

8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 109,088

9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 105,637

10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 64,157

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (CLE) 1,066,147

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 963,110

3. Kevin Love (CLE) 473,328

4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 457,300

5. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 400,448

6. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 327,716

7. Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 324,106

8.  Paul George (IND) 249,484

9. Jabari Parker (MIL) 120,022

10. Tristan Thompson (CLE) 114,759

Western Conference

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 990,390

2. James Harden (HOU) 961,685

3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 899,024

4. Klay Thompson (GSW) 555,430

5. Chris Paul (LAC) 379,076

6. Damian Lillard (POR) 208,171

7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 191,407

8. Andre Iguodala (GSW) 130,224

9. Manu Ginobili (SAS) 122,333

10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 94,867

Frontcourt

1. Kevin Durant (GSW) 987,479

2. Zaza Pachulia (GSW) 823,376

3. Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 630,766

4. Anthony Davis (NOP) 567,201

5. Draymond Green (GSW) 464,319

6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225

7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979

8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 192,784

9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393

10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146

Remember, the NBA changed how it selects All-Starters this year. Players and media will have a voice along with fans.

Will that iron out weird situations like Zaza Pachulia ranking second among Western Conference frontcourt players? Maybe when everything comes together. But players’ votes can be loony, too.

The media will likely provide the most sober choices of who “deserves” to start. On that note, here’s some sound analysis on which players should get the nod.

There’s still so much of the equation left to come, which has really taken the air out of the sales of these vote announcements. It’s nice to know where players rank among fans, but it means only so much now.

Donatas Motiejunas calls free agency ‘one of the worst experiences of my life’

New York Knicks center Kyle O'Quinn (9) outmaneuvers New Orleans Pelicans' Donatas Motiejunas (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Donatas Motiejunas could’ve signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $4,433,683 contract. Instead, he let his qualifying offer expire.

At another point in his free agency, he could’ve all but locked into a contract that guaranteed him $5 million, highly likely would’ve paid at least $17.5 million and could’ve been worth up to $37 million. Instead, he skipped his physical with the Rockets after they matched the Nets’ offer sheet.

In the end, Motiejunas signed a prorated minimum contract with the Pelicans for $576,724.

Motiejunas, via Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders:

“Honestly, you can say it was business stuff, but, from my side, I’m a basketball player, I just want to play,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “Being involved in that business situation, it was one of the worst experiences of my life that I’ve had. I would say, from any basketball player, we work every day, we put our sweat, we put our tears, we put our blood on the floor, try to help and make teams better, so when someone acts with you like this, it’s just wrong.”

“The team lost an asset,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “I lost $37, 38 million, so both sides lost in this situation. No one won in this situation actually. I know, as soon as I step on the floor, the people are going to see that I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was playing. For me, I’m not going to lose anything. After this year, someone else is going to pick me up. I’m not worried about that. I know how to play basketball. I know how to make every and each team better. I adjust to the situation depending on what coach asks me to do, so I’m not worried about that. It was just a ridiculous situation, the resolution was taking too long, and it was affecting me as a player, and it was affecting me personally. Instead of being a business decision it was like more of a personal decision.”

It sounds as if Motiejunas is upset about not playing, not just how his contract situation eventually played out – but that’s his fault. He should’ve accepted the qualifying offer in the first place, and he would’ve been on the court to begin the season and earning more money.

He’ll be a free agent against next summer, and he might be in for another rough time. In the last year, both the Pistons and Rockets failed him on physicals. The Rockets even let him hit unrestricted free agency when they could’ve made him a restricted free agent without an open qualifying offer. Essentially, Houston didn’t think he was worth the trouble at any price.

Motiejunas was stuck in restricted free agency last year until most teams had spent their cap space. Beginning the offseason unrestricted should help him this year, and he’ll have a chance to boost his stock in New Orleans.

But the underlying injury concerns aren’t disappearing, and those will keep limiting teams’ desire to sign him.

Report: Knicks fined Derrick Rose about $200,000

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The Knicks fined Derrick Rose for going AWOL during their game against the Pelicans.

How much?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Disappearing Knicks point guard Derrick Rose was fined roughly $200,000 for missing Monday’s loss to the Pelicans without notification, sources said.

When the NBA suspends players, it also docks them 1/110th of their salary per game suspended. For Rose, that’d be $193,848.

Teams are under no obligation to follow the same formula, and the Knicks didn’t even suspend Rose. But according to Berman, that’s how they determined Rose’s fine.

This is a relatively light direct punishment for Rose, whose failure to communicate reached a shocking level. But the hit to his reputation will reverberate much further.

Wizards’ Otto Porter: Celtics try to play dirty

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Jae Crowder and John Wall were at the center of last night’s Celtics-Wizards dustup – the latest in confrontation and physicality between these teams.

Washington forward Otto Porter, who was off the floor before tensions boiled over, says Boston tries to cross the line.

Porter, via CSN Mid-Atlantic:

They’re a physical team. They try to play dirty. They try to take you out your game.

“Try to play dirty” – is that just Porter’s wording, or is he insinuating the Celtics can’t even successfully play dirty? My guess is the former, but the latter would be a nice sneak diss.

Boston has several gritty players – including Marcus Smart, Crowder and Isaiah Thomas – who walk the dirty/aggressive line. Do they sometimes cross it? Yes, especially Smart. But this is not an overall dirty team. Several teams occasionally cross the line without it forming their identity.

Report: Knicks veterans expressing frustration with defensive scheme

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The Knicks ranked last in the NBA, allowing, 110.9 points per 100 possessions through six games, when they put assistant coach Kurt Rambis in charge of defense. New York has allowed 107.7 points per 100 possessions, the equivalent of 25th, since.

Apparently, that climb from horrendous to ordinarily bad hasn’t satisfied some players – and they’re pointing fingers.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Some veterans have begun to privately express frustration over the club’s defensive schemes, per sources. The defense is led by associate head coach Kurt Rambis and entered play Tuesday ranked 27th in defensive efficiency.

Surely, the coaches designing those defensive schemes would say the disgruntled veterans could give better effort on that end of the floor. And so it goes.

Carmelo Anthony didn’t sound eager to embrace Rambis in the first place. Dropping nine of 10 doesn’t put most people in the mood for productive cooperation. Losing usually exacerbates these problems.

The Knicks’ defense has actually looked less discombobulated under Rambis, though it was due for regression to the mean after just six games anyway. Still, the Knicks foul too much without actually forcing turnovers or grabbing defensive rebounds. They’re physical when already beat, not when it can make a positive impact.

New York’s  fundamental issue defensively is personnel, which falls on Phil Jackson. Derrick Rose is a defensive minus at the point of attack. Anthony usually cares little about that end. Joakim Noah is a shell of his former self.

Could the schemes improve? Yes. Could the effort improve? Yes. But as long as the roster stays the same, the defensive upside is limited. There’s only so much blame for the players and coaches to place on each other while Jackson looks down from on high.