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LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo lead conference in All-Star voting

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LeBron James (West) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (East) are on track to captain NBA All-Star teams this year.

The first fan-voting returns:

Western Conference

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (LAL) 1,083,363

2. Luka Doncic (DAL) 679,839

3. Kevin Durant (GSW) 659,968

4. Anthony Davis (NOP) 605,417

5. Paul George (OKC) 580,055

6. Steven Adams (OKC) 261,327

7. Nikola Jokic (DEN) 235,272

8. Kyle Kuzma (LAL) 195,477

9. Draymond Green (GSW) 138,017

10. DeMarcus Cousins (GSW) 92,977

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 793,111

2. Derrick Rose (MIN) 698,086

3. James Harden (HOU) 541,606

4. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 459,792

5. Klay Thompson (GSW) 247,618

6. Damian Lillard (POR) 200,609

7. DeMar DeRozan (SAS) 197,524

8. Lonzo Ball (LAL) 175,040

9. Devin Booker (PHO) 111,897

10. Chris Paul (HOU) 101,104

Eastern Conference

Frontcourt

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 991,561

2. Kawhi Leonard (TOR) 774,172

3. Joel Embiid (PHI) 648,002

4. Jimmy Butler (PHI) 222,206

5. Jayson Tatum (BOS) 214,622

6. Blake Griffin (DET) 192,694

7. Vince Carter (ATL) 76,022

8. Andre Drummond (DET) 68,204

9. Gordon Hayward (BOS) 66,492

10. Al Horford (BOS) 62,288

Guards

1. Kyrie Irving (BOS) 910,329

2. Dwyane Wade (MIA) 409,156

3. Kemba Walker (CHA) 319,519

4. Ben Simmons (PHI) 259,993

5. Victor Oladipo (IND) 198,009

6. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 180,571

7. Zach LaVine (CHI) 128,605

8. Jeremy Lin (ATL) 62,573

9. Bradley Beal (WAS) 61,269

10. John Wall (WAS) 54,366

Remember, the NBA stopped giving fans autonomy in picking All-Star starters. Now, the fan vote counts as just 50% in a formula that also gives 25% to current players and 25% to selected media.

So, the big surprises near the top of each category – Luka Doncic second among Western Conference frontcourt players, Derrick Rose second among Western Conference guards, Dwyane Wade second among Eastern Conference guards – barely matter. It’s difficult to see players and media supporting those players. Though maybe Wade gets sendoff starting votes from his peers as he nears retirement.

Other surprises on the leaderboard: Lonzo Ball, DeMarcus Cousins, Vince Carter, Jeremy Lin. But, again, those don’t really matter for actually selecting All-Stars. It’s just a good indication of which players have larger followings than their on-court performance would suggest.

The big races are for leading each conference in fan voting, which – as long as he winds up a starter – makes the player a captain for selecting All-Star teams. LeBron has a big – probably insurmountable – lead in the West. Antetokounmpo is up significantly in the East, though Kyrie Irving is within striking distance.

Kings hire WNBA’s Lindsey Harding as assistant coach

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA player Lindsey Harding as an assistant and player development coach on Luke Walton’s staff.

The team also hired Stacey Augmon and Rico Hines on Friday.

Harding played nine years in the WNBA before working as a pro personnel scout and then player development coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She becomes the latest woman to serve as a coach in the NBA, joining others like Boston’s Kara Lawson, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Dallas’ Jenny Boucek and Cleveland’s Lindsay Gottlieb.

The Kings have a history of hiring female coaches, notably Nancy Lieberman and Boucek.

 

Wizards reportedly to finally remove interim tag from GM Tommy Sheppard

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Tommy Sheppard has been doing the work as the Wizards GM since April when Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM.

Sheppard was the GM through the draft. Through free agency. All the time with the “interim” tag on his job title. In Las Vegas for Summer League, plenty of other executives wondered why that tag was still on Sheppard’s title.

It’s finally coming off, reports Candace Buckner of the Washington Post.

The Washington Wizards removed the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard’s title Friday, promoting him to be the 12th general manager in franchise history, according to a person with knowledge of the situation…

The promotion of Sheppard, who will be entering his 17th season with the Wizards, mirrors the internal hiring decision Leonsis made with his hockey team. In 2014, Leonsis elevated Brian MacLellan as the Washington Capitals senior vice president and general manager after firing George McPhee. Before the promotion, MacLellan had spent the previous seven years under McPhee as an assistant general manager.

This likely will be made official in the next 48-72 hours.

Part of the delay may have been that a couple of prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at different times. 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 coming to the District, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

Making Sheppard the full-time GM provides some stability just as the Wizards reach their most important moment of the summer.

On July 26 the Wizards can offer star two guard Bradley Beal a three-year, $111 million extension. The Wizards have been talking to Beal’s people and the offer will be made.

What Beal decides will decide the Wizards future for years. If Beal doesn’t sign that offer, the Wizards have to look at trading him. If he signs it, they need to build more around him.

Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards. However, there was plenty of informed speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and could choose to not sign it and essentially force his way out.

Either way, Beal’s decision will define the next steps for Sheppard for years.

 

Child tries to call out James Harden for step-back travels, he says it’s no travel

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If you tried this move in a high-school game 10 years ago, you would have been called for traveling.

In today’s NBA, as the rules are interpreted, James Harden‘s step back is not a travel.

At an event on Friday, a young fan tried to call Harden out on the travel and he defended himself. Via Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Harden’s stepback is not a travel (when he executes it properly). Even if it looks like it is.

Here is the play in question.

The official response — meaning from officials:

I know when you played Junior High basketball in 2002 that was a travel, but the NBA hasn’t called it that way in years.

The NBA rule here (Rule 10, Section XIII) simplified is a “gather and two steps.” Meaning one step while Harden is gathering the ball, plus two more. Nobody pushes the boundary of the gather step like Harden, he has mastered the grey area. But when he executes it properly — and he doesn’t every time — it’s not a travel.

No matter what that young boy’s father tells him.

Justin Holiday reportedly reaches deal with Pacers, will join forces with brother

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The Pacers just added the wing depth and some defense at the position they have been looking for.

It’s through someone they have long had their eye on, Justin Holiday, the six-year NBA veteran who split time last season between Chicago and Memphis. He has reached an agreement to join the Pacers — and his brother, Aaron Holiday — for a season in Indiana. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

The Pacers have been in touch with Holiday for a while, reports J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Holiday averaged 10.5 points a game last season, shot 34.7 percent from three, and played solid wing defense.

Victor Oladipo is the team’s best wing player, once he returns from injury (the Pacers are hoping around Christmas or a little after). Beyond him there is Jeremy Lamb, C.J. Wilcox, T.J. Warren, Doug McDermott, and Brian Bowen. Holiday can find minutes in that group.

This also sparks the dream of an all T.J./Holiday lineup. The Pacers have two Holidays, Justin and Aaron, as well as three un-related players named T.J. — T.J. McConnell, T.J. Warren, and T.J. Leaf. We need to see those five on the court together next season, if only for a few minutes.