NBA All-Star balloting opens with some interesting questions

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If he doesn’t come back until December, is Kobe Bryant still a starting All-Star guard in the West? Or should Stephen Curry or James Harden have that spot?

Does Kevin Love move past Tim Duncan into the starting lineup?

Is Paul George a starter in the East?

Is it time for a Derrick Rose/Kyrie Irving starting backcourt?

The NBA’s star structure is evolving and it will be interesting to see how that translates to the NBA All-Star game, specifically how fans like yourself will vote on who starts for each conference.

It’s time to think about it (yes, even just two weeks into the season) because you can vote now.

The league officially opened voting today, you can go online and vote at NBA.com/asb, or by SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”), or do so when you attend an NBA game, using one of those quaint paper ballots.

Voting runs through Jan. 20.

Each conference has 60 players on the ballot and voters select the five starters in each conference. Because the list is put together before the season starts by a list of media members, guys who come out of relatively nowhere at the start of the season are not on there. Sorry Michael Carter-Williams, you still get to go to New Orleans for the rookie showcase.

The guys with the most votes from the fans get to start, then the coaches vote to select the rest of the team.

Remember, there is no “center” position anymore, you select two for the backcourt and three for the front court. That might hurt some centers, although I have a feeling Dwight Howard playing in Houston is going to do just fine (thank you international voters).

Here is a list of who made the ballot:

EAST BACKCOURT (24)

Arron Afflalo, Orlando
Ray Allen, Miami
Bradley Beal, Washington
Mario Chalmers, Miami
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Raymond Felton, New York
Gerald Henderson, Charlotte
George Hill, Indiana
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
Brandon Jennings, Detroit
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn
Kyle Lowry, Toronto
O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee
Victor Oladipo, Orlando
Rajon Rondo, Boston
Derrick Rose, Chicago
J.R. Smith, New York
Lance Stephenson, Indiana
Jeff Teague, Atlanta
Evan Turner, Philadelphia
Dwyane Wade, Miami
Kemba Walker, Charlotte
John Wall, Washington
Deron Williams, Brooklyn

EAST FRONTCOURT (36)

Carmelo Anthony, New York
Carlos Boozer, Chicago
Chris Bosh, Miami
Andrew Bynum, Cleveland
Tyson Chandler, New York
Luol Deng, Chicago
Andre Drummond, Detroit
Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn
Rudy Gay, Toronto
Paul George, Indiana
Marcin Gortat, Washington
Danny Granger, Indiana
Jeff Green, Boston
Tobias Harris, Orlando
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia
Roy Hibbert, Indiana
Al Horford, Atlanta
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee
LeBron James, Miami
Al Jefferson, Charlotte
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn
Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Greg Monroe, Detroit
Nene, Washington
Joakim Noah, Chicago
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee
Josh Smith, Detroit
Amar’e Stoudemire, New York
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando
Gerald Wallace, Boston
David West, Indiana
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia

WEST BACKCOURT (24)

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
Mike Conley, Memphis
Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
Stephen Curry, Golden State
Goran Dragic, Phoenix
Monta Ellis, Dallas
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio
Eric Gordon, New Orleans
James Harden, Houston
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans
Ty Lawson, Denver
Damian Lillard, Portland
Jeremy Lin, Houston
Kevin Martin, Minnesota
Steve Nash, LA Lakers
Tony Parker, San Antonio
Chris Paul, LA Clippers
J.J. Redick, LA Clippers
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento
Klay Thompson, Golden State
Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

WEST FRONTCOURT (36)

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans
Omer Asik, Houston
Harrison Barnes, Golden State
Nicolas Batum, Portland
Andrew Bogut, Golden State
Wilson Chandler, Denver
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
Tyreke Evans, New Orleans
Kenneth Faried, Denver
Derrick Favors, Utah
Danilo Gallinari, Denver
Marc Gasol, Memphis
Pau Gasol, LA Lakers
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
Gordon Hayward, Utah
Dwight Howard, Houston
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City
Andre Iguodala, Golden State
DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers
Enes Kanter, Utah
David Lee, Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Kevin Love, Minnesota
Shawn Marion, Dallas
JaVale McGee, Denver
Markieff Morris, Phoenix
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
Chandler Parsons, Houston
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota
Zach Randolph, Memphis
Tiago Splitter, San Antonio
Derrick Williams, Minnesota

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.