LeBron James, Kevin Durant lead first round of fan NBA All-Star voting

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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The fans want the biggest names — and established stars — on the All-Star stage in Salt Lake City in February, and it’s hard to argue with them.

Kevin Durant and LeBron James lead the fan voting and would be the captains picking their teams this year, based on the first round of fan voting for the 2023 All-Star Game, which was released today. Fans are leaning into high-profile established stars having good seasons — some of them have missed time due to injuries, but that has not bothered voters.

Here is the list after the first round of fan voting, with their vote totals:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt
1. LeBron James (Lakers) 3,168,694
2. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) 2,237,768
3. Anthony Davis (Lakers) 2,063,325
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4. Zion Williamson (Pelicans) 1,924,222
5. Andrew Wiggins (Warriors) 1,123,898
6. Paul George (Clippers) 955,896
7. Lauri Markkanen (Jazz) 466,988
8. Draymond Green (Warriors) 405,245
9. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) 303,477
10. Kevon Looney (Warriors) 245,985

Guards
1. Stephen Curry (Warriors) 2,715,520
2. Luka Doncic (Mavericks) 2,388,502
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3. Ja Morant (Grizzlies) 915,507
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder) 911,774
5. Klay Thompson (Warriors) 514,104
6. Russell Westbrook (Lakers) 448,224
7. Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) 314,158
8. Devin Booker (Suns) 224,961
9. Austin Reaves (Lakers) 144,520
10. Jordan Poole (Warriors) 138,392

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Frontcourt
1. Kevin Durant (Nets) 3,118,545
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) 2,998,327
3. Joel Embiid (76ers) 2,226,712
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4. Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 2,178,330
5. Jimmy Butler (Heat) 477,008
6. Pascal Siakam (Rapotors 324,632
7. Kyle Kuzma (Wizards) 234,035
8. Paolo Banchero (Magic) 212,417
9. Nic Claxton (Nets) 160,407
10. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers) 121,561

Guards
1. Kyrie Irving (Nets) 2,071,715
2. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers) 1,637,374
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3. James Harden (76ers) 1,161,593
4. Jaylen Brown (Celtics) 1,032,522
5. Trae Young (Hawks) 791,354
6. DeMar DeRozan (Bulls) 544,629
7. LaMelo Ball (Hornets) 299,113
8. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers) 281,691
9. Derrick Rose (Bulls) 220,229
10. Darius Garland (Cavaliers) 143,826

Here are a few thoughts on this:

• Eastern Conference frontcourt remains the toughest decision: Durant, Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Tatum all deserve to start. One of them has to come off the bench. There is no right or wrong answer here, and it’s likely it will be as close among the player and media votes for those spots as it is with the fans (remember, it’s fans 50%, players 25%, media 25%). This is to say, the fan vote may hold sway.

• How much does games missed matter in picking All-Stars? Should it matter? Both the Warriors’ Curry and the Lakers’ Davis played well enough to be All-Star starters, but both have also missed considerable time the past month due to injuries. While that might impact them in things like the MVP or All-NBA votes at the end of the season, should it for an exhibition game for the fans? With their votes, those fans have clearly said it does not matter.

• It will be interesting to see where the player and media votes fall on Kyrie Irving. Could they bump him out as a starter in favor of Harden or someone else?

• Surprising commissions: No Jalen Brunson among the East guards? No Bam Adebayo in the East frontcourt? They both deserve some votes (Adebayo unquestionably deserves to be there in Salt Lake City).

• Also, nobody in the top 10 from that expensive Minnesota Timberwolves frontcourt.

• There is a massive gap in the fan voting for West guards between the top two — Curry and Doncic — and third-place Ja Morant. Likely too much for him to make up.

• Tyrese Haliburton is too low, he is having a fantastic season. He should be in consideration for a starting spot.

• Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves being in the top 10 for West guards shows the power of the Lakers voting block.

• Some other potential first-time All-Stars got in the fan top 10s: Lauri Markkanen, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Kyle Kuzma lead that list. Rookie Paolo Banchero also made the top 10 frontcourt vote getters in the East.

• Fans vote for the starters — two guards, three frontcourt players in each conference — but the reserves for each team are chosen by a vote of the NBA coaches.

• Fan All-Star voting continues at the NBA app and NBA.com through Jan. 21 (there is no voting via social media this year). On Jan. 6, Jan. 13, Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 all fan votes will count triple.

• As in recent years, the fan vote will count for 50% of the total for each player, with votes from NBA players counting for 25%, and votes from a panel of NBA media making up the other 25%.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 4 at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken in New Orleans. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the record fall when LeBron returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 7 or Feb. 9.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

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“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.