LeBron James, Stephen Curry leading in early All-Star voting returns

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You really like LeBron James. But we knew that.

You really like Stephen Curry. But we knew that as well.

What is interesting is you have now fallen for Anthony Davis, John Wall and even Pau Gasol in Chicago. And Kevin Durant has some catching up to do.

That’s what we can take away from the first — and somewhat early — returns from the fan voting for the All-Star Game on Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The NBA released the early returns on Christmas Day. Remember that fans get to vote on the starters — two guards and three front court players — for each conference, then the coaches vote for the bench players that round out the rosters.

Here would be the starters if the voting holds:

Eastern Conference: John Wall, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol
Western Conference: Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol

Here’s the secret about the early voting: There are usually not many changes between this and the starting five in the All-Star Game. Last season saw more than normal, and I think we’ll see a couple this year (hello Kevin Durant) but this is usually a pretty stable indicator.

Some quick thoughts on these returns (you can see more detailed voting return numbers below):

• Being injured left Kevin Durant in an “out of sight, out of mind” state but I expect he will climb the ladder and make it into the starting lineup if he gets healthy.

• Wow, that’s both Gasol brothers starting.

• Not surprisingly LeBron James leads all vote getters early on, however his is less than 30,000 over Stephen Curry of the Warriors. Curry even leads Kobe Bryant. Nobody used to lead Kobe.

• While Chris Paul and James Harden are normally locks, they are well back of Curry and Kobe. Not likely the West starting backcourt changes.

• Raptors fans are getting out and voting this year. Kyle Lowry deserves the support, but you can tell they are voting in numbers when Louis Williams makes the top 10 of guards.

• Will Pau Gasol really be able to hold off Kevin Love for a starting spot out East?

• Voting remains open through Jan. 19. The voting is now all digital — fans can vote on NBA.com; through social media networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblog; via SMS text, and the NBA Game Time and using the NBA Game Time from Sprint applications.

Here is the top 10 vote getters so far.

Eastern Conference

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (Cle) 552,967
2. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 265,170
3. Pau Gasol (Chi) 247,953
4. Chris Bosh (Mia) 208,549
5. Kevin Love (Cle) 169,818
6. Joakim Noah (Chi) 69,994
7. Marcin Gortat (Was) 57,715
8. Jonas Valanciunas (Tor) 52,318
9. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 46,494
10. Al Jefferson (Cha) 43,230

Guards

1. John Wall (Was) 299,209
2. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 265,917
3. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 237,356
4. Kyle Lowry (Tor) 182,896
5. Derrick Rose (Chi) 105,465
6. Jimmy Butler (Chi) 99,984
7. DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 51,946
8. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Mil) 17,512
9. Louis Williams (Tor) 15,329
10. Bradley Beal (Was) 13,911

Western Conference

Frontcourt

1. Anthony Davis (NO) 524,623
2. Blake Griffin (LAC) 307,908
3. Marc Gasol (Mem) 227,554
4. Tim Duncan (SA) 198,649
5. Kevin Durant (OKC) 191,881
6. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 152,253
7. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 117,003
8. Dwight Howard (Hou) 104,699
9. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 100,015
10. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 74,501

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GS) 549,095
2. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 521,542
3. James Harden (Hou) 336,998
4. Chris Paul (LAC) 257,528
5. Rajon Rondo (Dal) 107,366
6. Klay Thompson (GS) 90,957
7. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 84,686
8. Damian Lillard (Por) 82,884
9. Jeremy Lin (LAL) 77,276
10. Tony Parker (SA) 50,287

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”