By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Dec 10 2009 6:55PM
There's Kobe and LeBron, D-Wade and 'Melo, Dwight and KG. Many of the usual suspects rank high atop the leaderboard in the first round of All-Star balloting released Thursday.
Five of the NBA's top six scorers are in position to start in what promises to be the most-attended basketball game ever. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is shooting for 100,000 fans -- 80,000 might be more realistic -- when the 2010 All-Star Game sets up shop at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 14.
The record gathering is expected to feature the NBA's best and brightest, and if the early returns in the voting by the fans are any indication, that's exactly what's going to happen. Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, the league's top scorers, pace the Western Conference voting, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, fourth and fifth, lead everyone out East. (See the complete totals in the official release.)
Bryant is the overall leader with 692,518 votes and, naturally, first among West guards. The three-time All-Star MVP is averaging 28.8 points a game for the defending champion Lakers, who own the league's best record. One of the few early surprises: Tracy McGrady (281,545) is second among guards in the voting, in line for a starting spot. The injured Houston swingman has yet to play a game this season. He is a seven-time All-Star.
Assists leader Steve Nash (272,135) of the Suns is right behind T-Mac. Nash, a two-time MVP who didn't make the All-Star team last season in Phoenix, is playing the best ball of his career, according to Suns coach Alvin Gentry. Chris Paul (Hornets) and Jason Kidd (Mavericks) -- second and fifth in assists, respectively -- are the only other guards with more than 200,000 votes. Deron Williams (Jazz) is third in assists, but 10th in voting.
Amar'e Stoudemire (Suns) has a healthy lead of nearly 150,000 votes over Andrew Bynum (Lakers) in the West center race. Chris Kaman (Clippers) is having one of the better seasons for West centers, averaging 18.7 and 8.5 rebounds, but he wasn't on the ballot and didn't grab enough write-in votes to appear among the leaders.
Anthony leads West forwards in votes (588,958) and the league in scoring (29.8). 'Melo has been voted the starter once in his career (2008) and appears well on his way to a second selection.
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs) has the inside track on the second forward spot with 366,300 votes. The 2007 MVP is an eight-time All-Star, but he's never been voted a starter. (He did start in 2007 as an injury replacement.)
"It would be an honor to be voted as a starter by the fans, but either way I hope to play in my home city," Nowitzki said Thursday.
Tim Duncan (Spurs) has been the West standard bearer at forward for a decade, with 10 All-Star starts in 11 appearances. Duncan is currently fourth, trailing Anthony, Nowitzki and Pau Gasol of the Lakers. Kevin Durant (Thunder) is third in scoring overall, but just fifth in voting among forwards.
In the Eastern Conference, the trio of James, Wade and Dwight Howard might as well book their tickets to Big D. James, a five-time starter representing the Cavaliers, has 649,327 votes to top all East forwards. Kevin Garnett (Celtics) is second with a respectable total of 533,187. Chris Bosh (Raptors) is the only forward currently in striking distance at 303,550.
"It means a lot to me to be a guy that the fans voted for,'' Howard said. "It's the best when the fans are voting for you and that's the highest praise. The All-Star Game is still a lot of fun, and I always like being around the other guys.''
The East backcourt could be an all-Florida affair with Wade (Heat) joined by Magic newcomer Vince Carter, who's tallied 292,002 votes. Carter may have five All-Star starts under his belt, but a sixth won't be a slam dunk. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards), Ray Allen (Celtics) and Derrick Rose (Bulls) are all around 200,000 votes. And don't forget the reborn-Sixers favorite Allen Iverson, who's in sixth place. Iverson has made very All-Star game since the 2000 game in Oakland, Calif.
"It's always an honor. It's actually hard to believe that I'm up there,'' Carter said. "If I'm fortunate enough to get there, then it's a great honor. But we'll see.''
Howard (Magic) is running away with the East vote at center with 625,279, more than doubling perennial All-Star scene-stealer Shaquille O'Neal of the Cavs.
The All-Star Game is being broadcast live on TNT and ESPN Radio domestically, and to more than 200 countries (in 40 languages).
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