Posted Dec 30 2010 1:02PM
Working his way into the discussion of the league's top forwards is one thing. Climbing to the top of the All-Star voting heap is completely different.
If only Blake Griffin could soar past his peers with the same ferocity he's shown flying over defenders.
The Los Angeles Clippers prized rookie remained sixth in voting among Western Conference forwards, with Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and a surging Carmelo Anthony (Denver) leading the way in the second ballot returns released Thursday. Griffin's chances to nab a spot on the West All-Star team are likely better with the coaches than the fans.
"I'm not really worried about it," Griffin said. "Hopefully, I'll have more years to maybe make that. There are a lot of guys out there that should be in the All-Star Game. It's not something that I'm worried about."
West guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers continues to be the overall leader in ballots cast, the first and only player to surpass 1 million. Closing in on seven figures and rounding out the top four vote-getters are Orlando center Dwight Howard and Miami Heat teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
When it comes to projecting the All-Star starters, little has changed in the fan voting in the past two weeks. The Eastern Conference is exactly the same with Wade and Rajon Ronda (Boston) at guard, LeBron and Kevin Garnett (Boston) manning the forward spots and Howard in the middle.
The West backcourt is still Kobe and Chris Paul (New Orleans). An injured Yao Ming (Houston) leads the center category. Yao, out for the year, is up on second-place Andrew Bynum (Lakers) by a healthy 261,000 votes, so it appears NBA commissioner David Stern will be choosing the West's starting big man unless someone else comes on strong.
Carmelo did that among West forwards by leapfrogging the Lakers' Pau Gasol, who was second to Durant in the first returns. Anthony's lead over Gasol of about 5,000 is the closest in any potential starter race. Griffin is also making a move, though he's still behind Durant, Anthony, Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas) and Tim Duncan (San Antonio).
In the first returns, Griffin was 19,000 votes behind fourth-place Nowitzki. The Clipper has shaved that margin to less than 12,000. Fans are definitely noticing Griffin's jaw-dropping dunks. He's also the only player in the league averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists per game, and his run of consecutive double-doubles is up to 20.
Sounds like an All-Star, right?
"There aren't too many guys in the league that put up 20 and 10 and he has been pretty consistent doing that," Clippers teammate Eric Gordon said. "I think he has as good a chance as anyone."
Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry recently compared Griffin to a young Amar'e Stoudemire. Gentry also sees a drive in the 21-year-old delayed rookie that promises success.
"No one that works as hard as he does is not going to get better," Gentry said. "If you're asking me how good I think he's going to be, I think he's going to be a perennial All-Star. It's going to be hard for him not to be."
Griffin is also entering a stretch of marquee games that could help make up some of the 167,000 votes he's behind 'Melo. Not that a starting gig or even a reserve spot is his focus right now.
"It's just not a big deal at all," Griffin said. "I'm not hurt by it or anything like that. Eventually, I'd love to be an All Star. It's a goal, but like I said, hopefully I'll have a lot more years to do that."
Voting for the starters for the 60th NBA All-Star Game continues 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-New York and Boston-Portland doubleheader.
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