The NBA announced the starters for its All-Star Game on Thursday, with the voting organized according to conference although the rosters for the contest itself won’t be. The Lakers’ LeBron James and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo led all players in votes and thus will be the team captains, charged with drafting squads next month.
LeBron James, Lakers — 15th all-star appearance
Kevin Durant, Warriors — 10th all-star appearance
Paul George, Thunder — 6th all-star appearance
Stephen Curry, Warriors — 6th all-star appearance
James Harden, Rockets — 7th all-star appearance
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks — 3rd all-star appearance
Kawhi Leonard, Raptors — 3rd all-star appearance
Joel Embiid, 76ers — 2nd all-star appearance
Kyrie Irving, Celtics — 6th all-star appearance
Kemba Walker, Hornets — 3rd all-star appearance
The NBA All-Star Game is set to take place on Feb. 17, with events such as the dunk and three-point contests earlier that weekend. The reserves for the game will be announced on Jan. 31, and on Feb. 7, James and Antetokounmpo will draft their respective rosters on live TV. Last year, when such a draft was first held, the NBA was criticized for not allowing it to be shown as it occurred, and even James said it “definitely should have been televised.”
Since injuring his groin in a Christmas Day win over the Warriors, James has missed 15 straight games, the longest such stretch of his career although he is expected back soon. Nevertheless, he was voted as a starter, extending his record streak in that category to 15 straight years and tying Kobe Bryant’s record of 15 total starting nods in the game.
Fan voting accounted for 50 percent of each player’s weighted rank, with voting from players and media members making up 25 percent each. In unexpected developments, Mavericks rookie Luke Doncic, the third overall pick last year, was second behind James among Western Conference frontcourt players in fan voting, while Timberwolves veteran Derrick Rose was second to Curry among guards in the West.
Doncic’s Dallas team came into Thursday at just 21-26, third-worst in the West. For his part, Rose has enjoyed something of a career renaissance in Minnesota, but he has had nowhere near the caliber of season enjoyed by Harden. In fairness, no one has, with Harden on a historic scoring streak. The 2018 NBA MVP was only third among guards in fan voting, though, ahead of former teammate Russell Westbrook.
Despite averaging 29.3 points per game — good for second in the NBA behind Harden — and 13.3 rebounds, the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis finished just fifth in fan voting. Meanwhile, the Heat’s Dwyane Wade, in what he has said will be his final season, was second only to Irving among Eastern Conference guards in fan voting. That was well ahead of Walker, but Wade will need to be selected as a reserve if he is to participate in the game.
On TNT’s all-star announcement show, Charles Barkley said that he’d rather not see Wade named a reserve, instead preferring that the honor go to a less heralded but more deserving player who might “only make the all-star team one time in their life.” Shaquille O’Neal, who helped Wade win an NBA title for Miami, said that “it would be nice for the game and nice for the fans” to have his former teammate participate, but claimed that Wade would not want “sympathy votes” and would not complain if he were left out.
Walker will be an all-star starter for the first time and he can expect plenty of cheering when he is introduced, given that the game will be played in Charlotte. He told TNT’s Ernie Johnson Thursday that getting the news that evening was “surreal,” adding, “You know, I had a lot of doubt coming into my early career, about just even being an elite point guard in this league, so for me to become an all-star for two straight years and then now to become an all-star starter, it most definitely proved the doubters wrong. So this is an unbelievable moment in my career.”
Barkley was the only member of TNT’s panel who thought Doncic should be selected as a reserve, calling him “exciting” and the “runaway rookie of the year.” Co-analyst Kenny Smith disagreed, asserting that last year’s runner-up for NBA rookie of the year, Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz, was more deserving.
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