Posted Dec 16 2010 11:29AM
One night he's an award winner. The next day, a star of the All-Star balloting. Did we mention the defending scoring champ is leading the league in scoring again this season?
Life isn't too bad for Kevin Durant these days.
The leading vote-getter among Western Conference forwards received USA Basketball's Male Athlete of the Year award Wednesday night before Oklahoma City beat Houston for its fourth straight win. Durant led the American team to the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship last summer.
"I'm so humbled by it," Durant said of the USAB honor. "I'm just trying work as hard everyday to maintain that level."
A first-time All-Star last season via the coaches' vote, Durant would claim his first All-Star starting nod if he maintains his early lead in fan voting. The first ballot results were released Thursday by the NBA. Durant took in nearly 471,000 votes to pace a crowded and deep field of West forwards.
Just about 80,000 votes back of Durant is Pau Gasol of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol is the Lakers' leading rebounder (11.2) and second-leading scorer (19.8) through their first 26 games. The three-time All-Star has never been voted in as a starter.
This could be the year.
"It's a big honor to be considered and be nominated as one of the best in the league," Gasol said. "I think it's a great compliment and a great honor for an NBA player. It is rewarding, and you should feel very proud of being an All-Star when you achieve that."
While the initial returns represent a possible changing of the guard in Durant and Gasol, the rest of the voting suggests that fans are sticking with their old favorites. Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Dwight Howard (Magic), LeBron James (Heat) and Dwyane Wade (Heat) are the top four in balloting.
But as with most popularity contests, not all voting makes sense. Exhibit A: Western Conference centers.
Missing an entire season and almost all of this one hasn't slowed down the voting machine that is Yao Ming. The Rockets' center enjoys a healthy lead over equally unhealthy Lakers big man Andrew Bynum. The injury-riddled duo of Yao and Bynum have played in a grand total of six games this season.
The top four vote-getters have not changed much. Bryant, Howard, LeBron and D-Wade were also voted the top four by fans last season, although in slightly different order with a Cleveland-based James leading the pack then. LeBron racked up nearly 608,000 votes to stay in front of another perennial fan darling, Kevin Garnett, among Eastern Conference forwards.
Garnett's popularity is understandable, with 13 All-Star selections on his résumé and the backing of Celtics Nation. But he finished sixth overall in voting last season as he was recovering from injury. Who was seventh? The guy currently right behind KG in the East forward group. Amar'e Stoudemire, kingpin of the Knicks' resurgence, is gunning for this third All-Star starting assignment, but his newfound New York fame still left STAT more than 100,000 votes short of Garnett.
The East first unit would have a considerable green tint if Garnett holds on and Boston teammate Rajon Rondo maintains his position as D-Wade's backcourt partner. Rondo would be making his first All-Star start. So would Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, currently third behind Wade and Rondo.
The Durant-Gasol surge has pushed two-time starter and rumor magnet Carmelo Anthony to third among West forwards. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Tim Duncan (Spurs) and rookie phenom Blake Griffin (Clippers) aren't out of the running.
Kobe and Hornets playmaker Chris Paul head up West guards, with Manu Ginobili (Spurs), Steve Nash (Suns) and Deron Williams (Jazz) among those with serious ground to make up.
Fans can continue to vote for the starters for the 60th NBA All-Star Game through paper balloting in arenas, online at NBA.com or through texting. Arena voting ends Jan. 17, while online and wireless concludes Jan. 23.
The All-Star Game, on TNT, is Feb. 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Starters will be announced live on TNT on Jan. 27, during a special one-hour pregame show (7 p.m. ET) before the Miami-Knicks and Celtics-Trail Blazers doubleheader.
2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING
2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING
LeBron James (Heat) 607,994
Kevin Garnett (Celtics) 456,111
Amar'e Stoudemire (Knicks) 327,626
Paul Pierce (Celtics) 235,107
Chris Bosh (Heat) 161,801
Josh Smith (Hawks) 104,713
Carlos Boozer (Bulls) 82,655
Andre Iguodala (Sixers) 71,517
Danny Granger (Pacers) 66,759
Luol Deng (Bulls) 52,398
Kevin Durant (Thunder) 470,881
Pau Gasol (Lakers) 390,808
Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets) 369,768
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) 264,301
Tim Duncan (Spurs) 247,364
Blake Griffin (Clippers) 245,167
Lamar Odom (Lakers) 134,594
Luis Scola (Rockets) 119,901
Caron Butler (Mavericks) 96,785
Kevin Love (Wolves) 81,865
Dwyane Wade (Heat) 570,489
Rajon Rondo (Celtics) 497,141
Derrick Rose (Bulls) 424,356
Ray Allen (Celtics) 235,977
John Wall (Wizards) 120,284
Vince Carter (Magic) 117,628
Gilbert Arenas (Wizards) 88,599
Brandon Jennings (Bucks) 65,705
Joe Johnson (Hawks) 46,811
Jamal Crawford (Hawks) 31,524
Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 722,682
Chris Paul (Hornets) 386,649
Manu Ginobili (Spurs) 230,137
Steve Nash (Suns) 190,226
Deron Williams (Jazz) 184,148
Jason Kidd (Mavericks) 141,283
Russell Westbrook (Thunder) 140,519
Eric Gordon (Clippers) 113,510
Tony Parker (Spurs) 103,238,
Derek Fisher (Lakers) 81,088
Dwight Howard (Magic) 611,561
Shaquille O'Neal (Celtics) 241,782
Joakim Noah (Bulls) 97,163
Andrea Bargnani (Raptors) 53,275
Al Horford (Hawks) 49,098
Andrew Bogut (Bucks) 48,298
Brook Lopez (Nets) 38,103
JaVale McGee (Wizards) 36,227
Roy Hibbert (Pacers) 35,006
Ben Wallace (Pistons) 21,858
Yao Ming (Rockets) 430,984
Andrew Bynum (Lakers) 198,044
Brendan Haywood (Mavericks) 127,375
Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) 120,811
Emeka Okafor (Hornets) 115,647
Nene (Nuggets) 105,747
Chris Kaman (Clippers) 87,536
Marcus Camby (Blazers) 57,046
DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) 37,571
Andris Biedrins (Warriors) 36,655
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