Bryant gets nod for 15th All-Star start
Early returns of the fan ballot had Kobe Bryant clearly leading in votes, so the results were not a big surprise. Joining Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference starting lineup will be teammate Dwight Howard as the fourth leading vote-getter (922,070). However, Dwight Howard’s inclusion sparked a lot of criticism as TNT analyst Charles Barkley noted the Los Angeles Lakers center’s performance did make his case for an “All-Star season.”
“I always though Dwight was the best big man in the game, but he hasn’t played like that,” said Charles Barkley. “Plus, I would penalize that because the Lakers aren’t winning.”
Dwight Howard has been averaging 17.8 points and 12.6 rebounds, his lowest numbers since the 2006-07 season in Orlando. Coming off an offseason back surgery, Dwight Howard has struggled to put up the same numbers on the boards and has been sidelined by Kobe Bryant’s hot shooting and increasing role on defense. Moreover, Dwight Howard’s seventh All-Star appearance is somewhat surprising in the sense that the NBA changed the ballot this year, eliminating the center position so that fans got to pick three front court players and two guards instead. The odds should have gone against Dwight Howard since eth altered system favors guards.
The Los Angeles Lakers (17-21) are desperately looking to stretch their two-game winning streak tonight against the Miami Heat after freshly coming off a six-game slide. They predominantly ranked around the 11th spot in the Western Conference.
However, Kobe Bryant was unquestionably a top favorite after leading the league in scoring this season. With his latest All-Star selection, Kobe Bryant ties for the second all-time with Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett and former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal for 15 All-Star appearances. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still leads the NBA will 19 All-Star games, Kobe Bryant also boasts other All-Star records for four-time MVP and had his career-highest scoring with 271 points last season.
Other Western Conference All-Star starters include reigning All-Star MVP, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant as well as Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul and Kevin Durant.
The Eastern Conference lineup features a rather dysfunctional mix with Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade as well as Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo in the backcourt, while New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Celtics’ Kevin Garnett lead the front court alongside LeBron James.
Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett threw verbal jabs at each other during a Jan. 7 game, with Anthony being suspended one game for later seeking out a fight with Garnett near the team bus. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo got injured after tangling with Dwyane Wade in playoffs two years ago, and the rivalry between both teams lives out to this day.
While fans voted for the All-Star starters, coaches will determine the reserves in the game. They will be required to vote for seven players: three front court, two guards and two additional players, regardless of their positions. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for players on their own teams. The All-Star reserves will be announced next Thursday.