Nothing shocking here: Kobe, LeBron lead All-Star ballot early returns

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We don’t exactly need Nate Silver to break down these voting returns and trends — the players in the lead early in the NBA All-Star balloting almost always stay on top. Occasionally guys close small gaps, but generally what you see now is what you get.

In which case — good job public. No glaring mistakes here.

The league has released the first NBA All-Star Game ballot returns — fan votes choose the five starters for each conference (coaches votes determine the reserves).

When the All-Star Game tips off Feb. 17 in Houston, your likely starters are:

East: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett.

West: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard.

Not shockingly, LeBron is the leading overall vote getter (641,348) with Kobe 1,929 votes back of him.

While I can argue the merits of Chris Bosh starting over Kevin Garnett — he’s having a much better season — or if Tim Duncan should be on there instead of Dwight Howard (whether Duncan wants it or not) there are no egregious choices. Yet. The most obvious is Jeremy Lin, the Rockets guard who is third in backcourt voting in the West, but fortunately more than 50,000 back of CP3.

But I want to come and personally smack all of you that have voted for Andrew Bynum, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Seriously.

Here is the voting as of now — three frontcourt and two backcourt players for each side will start. You can vote online or at games through Jan. 14. So go online on your new tablet and do that on Christmas day rather than listen to your uncle Jerry tell that same story about the time your father broke his leg again.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Frontcourt:
1. LeBron James (Mia) 641,348
2. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 573,112
3. Kevin Garnett (Bos) 218,246
4. Chris Bosh (Mia) 210,724
5. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 151,744
6. Paul Pierce (Bos) 114,735
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 73,366
8. Josh Smith (Atl) 69,344
9. Andrew Bynum (Phi) 68,596
10. Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 64,266

Backcourt:
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 430,925
2. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 382,613
3. Deron Williams (BKN) 211,426
4. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 155,989
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 130,016
6. Monta Ellis (Mil) 47,650
7. Raymond Felton (NYK) 37,974
8. Jason Terry (Bos) 36,147
9. Brandon Jennings (Mil) 35,610
10. Jrue Holiday (Phi) 35,193.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt:
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 605,965
2. Dwight Howard (LAL) 434,168
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 307,855
4. Tim Duncan (SA) 189,577
5. Pau Gasol (LAL) 139,868
6. Kevin Love (Min) 112,922
7. Omer Asik (Hou) 88,178
8. Rudy Gay (Mem) 85,279
9. Serge Ibaka (OKC) 68,285
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 66,290

Backcourt:
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 639,419
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 353,603
3. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 298,319
4. James Harden (Hou) 196,108
5. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 143,437
6. Steve Nash (LAL) 118,073
7. Tony Parker (SA) 69,983
8. Ricky Rubio (Min) 54,744
9. Manu Ginobili (SA) 47,800
10. O.J. Mayo (Dal) 36,495.

Ben Simmons reverses course, withdraws from Australia’s Word Cup squad

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ben Simmons‘ new contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers came with bad news for Australian basketball fans: The Melbourne-born NBA All-star won’t play for the Boomers at the World Cup.

Hours after Simmons and the 76ers agreed to a $170 million, five-year contract extension on Tuesday, Simmons said he preferred to spend time with his new teammates in September instead of travelling to China for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 World Cup.

“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” Simmons said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Simmons had been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad and had earlier indicated he planned to play the tournament in China.

He now plans to play only for the Boomers in two exhibition games against the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 at a stadium that is expected to be sold out – 50,000 fans – for each game. He also said the Olympics next year in Tokyo remain on his schedule.

“I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games,” Simmons said. “I’m really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving closer to 2020 where I will be honored and humbled to represent my country on the world’s biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.”

Simmons was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was the Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists in his two seasons.

Australia’s World Cup lineup is set to feature San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, Phoenix center Aron Baynes, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut, Detroit center-forward Thon Maker and Simmons’ 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden.

 

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

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When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

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Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.

Enes Kanter trolls (jokingly) Kyrie Irving on why Kanter will wear No. 11 with Boston

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Kyrie Irving is off to Brooklyn, which opened up the No. 11 jersey in Boston.

New Celtics center Enes Kanter will wear it, and his answer as to why is an awesome joke and troll of Irving.

You have to love the smile before he makes the joke, he has planned this out.

If you don’t get the “I want to be the reason no one else will” wear No. 11, you have to remember this Irving/Nike ad from Boston.

Well played Kanter, well played.