Latest All-Star voting returns in, Charles Barkley will not be happy

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Apparently, you folks have no concern whatsoever for Charles Barkley’s feelings.

The day after Barkley said Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett have not played well enough to be part of the All-Star starters, they are both in. Howard solidly, he’s a lock, and Garnett has stretched out his lead over Chris Bosh.

Basically, nothing has really changed since last time we reported the results, including Kobe Bryant remaining the top overall vote getter. Fans get to vote in the starting five in each conference for the All-Star Game is Feb. 17 in Houston. These lineups look pretty locked in and they are:

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

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

There are only two races that really could change and neither looks likely. As noted above Bosh is within striking distance of Garnett at just under 28,000 votes behind (that’s a lot to make up but not impossible). In the West, Jeremy Lin remains about 46,000 votes back of Chris Paul for the second starting spot in the backcourt. With just more than a week left of voting any change in the starters is unlikely. There has been some movement farther down on the lists, but the focus is starting to turn to who the coaches will bring in and what players will come down with sudden ailments that will keep them out of the game.

Voting is open online or at games through Jan. 14, with the fan votes choosing the starters and the rest of the team filled in by votes from team coaches. Here is where the voting stands as of now:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Frontcourt:
1. LeBron James (Mia) 1,151,304
2. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 1,054,099
3. Kevin Garnett (Bos) 390,751
4. Chris Bosh (Mia) 362,973
5. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 315,752
6. Paul Pierce (Bos) 205,096
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 158,743
8. Josh Smith (Atl) 131,508
9. Anderson Varejao (Cle) 116,166
10. Shane Battier (NYK) 107,190

Backcourt:
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 765,077
2. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 675,822
3. Deron Williams (BKN) 350,618
4. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 308,878
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 232,441
6. Monta Ellis (Mil) 84,609
7. Raymond Felton (NYK) 77,123
8. Jrue Holiday (Phi) 66,514
9. Jason Terry (Bos) 62,189
10. Brandon Jennings (Mil) 56,826

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt:
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,088,797
2. Dwight Howard (LAL) 716,671
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 593,024
4. Tim Duncan (SA) 352,534
5. Pau Gasol (LAL) 239,440
6. Kevin Love (Min) 221,291
7. Omer Asik (Hou) 160,935
8. Rudy Gay (Mem) 140,864
9. Serge Ibaka (OKC) 134,172
10. Marc Gasol (Mem) 114,465

Backcourt:
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,177,456
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 651,893
3. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 605,624
4. James Harden (Hou) 337,585
5. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 268,558
6. Steve Nash (LAL) 202,274
7. Tony Parker (SA) 128,966
8. Ricky Rubio (Min) 112,352
9. Stephen Curry (GS) 97,761
10. Manu Ginobili (SA) 84,564

Report: Jimmy Butler-Timberwolves meeting moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles

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Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau are meeting today, not necessarily for Butler to express his desire to leave the Timberwolves – but maybe!

This is a huge meeting with big ramifications for Minnesota and even across the league. Every detail is subject to inspection until we know more.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Butler, like many NBA players, spends his summers near Los Angeles. The meeting being held there could be for numerous potential reasons.

But it feels significant Thibodeau is coming to Butler’s turf rather than the other way around.

Without better options, Heat settle for sentimentality

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Dwyane Wade took discounts from the Heat for years, seemingly expecting a larger windfall down the road.

It won’t come.

But Wade and Miami will enjoy one last dance together.

Wade is re-signing with the Heat on a one-year minimum contract he said would be for his final season, concluding a nostalgic summer in Miami. The Heat also re-signed local legend Udonis Haslem to another one-year minimum deal.

I wouldn’t expect much from either player on the court. If anything, Wade might prove destructive if the the 36-year-old uses his cachet to assume a larger role than he should handle. Haslem has barely played the last couple years, and that probably won’t change.

Still, there’s something to be said for proper sendoffs. Considering the high standards Wade and Haslem helped set for the franchise by winning three championships, this was unlikely to be a banner year in Miami, anyway. There’s value in honoring Wade and Haslem one more time.

Mostly, the Heat acted like a solid, stuck team this summer – because that’s what they are. That probably contributed to them not rewarding Wade for his prior sacrifice.

Yet, Miami eclipsed the luxury-tax line to sign Wayne Ellington, a helpful cog, to a one-year, $6.27 million deal. The tax isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season, so there’s still plenty of time for the Heat to dodge it. In fact, I predict they will. But by at least temporarily exceeding the tax line, Miami gave itself its best chance of maintaining its level of play.

The Heat sure didn’t upgrade, though. They made no draft picks and didn’t touch their mid-level exception. Their only outside addition to receive a guaranteed salary was Derrick Jones Jr., who signed a minimum contract with a second year unguaranteed. The 21-year-old athlete is a worthwhile flier, but he sure isn’t a difference maker.

Neither are Wade and Haslem anymore – outside of our fond memories of the pair, and that counts for something. Just not enough to change Miami’s trajectory.

Offseason grade: C

Report: Jimmy Butler ‘isn’t dead set’ on demanding trade from Timberwolves

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Jimmy Butler says he’ll meet with the Timberwolves today – not yesterday, as initially reported.

The far bigger issue: What will happen in the meeting?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I’m told, though, that while Butler has serious questions about the direction of the franchise, he’s still willing to hear Minnesota out, and isn’t dead set on demanding a trade elsewhere.

Butler probably wouldn’t demand a trade. That gets players fined. Paul George laid out a far more likely roadmap last offseason: Butler could inform Minnesota he won’t re-sign next offseason. Left to their own devices, the Timberwolves would probably trade him.

But would it get to even that point? That’s the big question looming over the day. If Butler hasn’t yet made up his mind, that would give Tom Thibodeau a chance to convey a plan.

Of course, this isn’t entirely up to Butler, either. If Minnesota must choose between Butler and Karl-Anthony Townswho reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until the Butler situation is handled – Butler could get dealt regardless of what he wants.

So much could come to a head today, but apparently there isn’t an inevitable outcome. Is Butler leaning a certain way, though? “Isn’t dead set” on demanding a trade isn’t exactly a huge vote of confidence.

Marcus Smart posts heartfelt tribute to mother, who died Sunday

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Marcus Smart delivered one of my favorite quotes after the Celtics beat the Rockets last season:

Smart — when asked if he prides himself in being “a pain in the ass” — chuckled.

“I guess you could say that,” Smart said. “My mom might say that. But nah, I play defense with passion, and defense wins games, and that was proven tonight.”

A deep love is the subtext behind that quip. Smart put it on display again – unfortunately after the death of Camellia Smart, who had been battling cancer.

Smart:

Smart plays with such heart, passion and toughness. If his mother were his role model, he honors her every time he takes the court.