Posted Jan 6 2011 1:07PM
The return of basketball relevancy to the Big Apple can be found next month in Los Angeles. Amar'e Stoudemire is a virtual lock to represent the New York Knicks on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Stoudemire hasn't wasted any time making his presence felt in New York, leading the Knicks back into playoff contention after a six-year absence. The MVP candidate is also in the running for a starting All-Star spot, checking in third among East forwards and gaining fast in the latest voting returns released Thursday.
But is Stoudemire the only Knickerbocker deserving of an all-expense paid trip to Staples Center? Raymond Felton might not be getting the fan love -- he's only eighth in the East guard vote -- but the plucky point guard is quietly putting together an All-Star caliber season in his first New York campaign. Felton is enjoying a career year, averaging 18.2 points and 8.7 assists, good for seventh in the league.
"He deserves it, but again somebody will be left off [the All-Star team] and they deserve it, too," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You can only pick 12 guys and the 13th guy deserves it. It'll come down to that. I hope he will get it. In my mind he definitely deserves it. He's played well."
So have most of those in the running for starting spots. The leaders for the East and West teams haven't changed since the second returns were announced a week ago. West guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers continues to lead all candidates with 1,391,597 votes. Orlando center Dwight Howard and Miami teammates LeBron James (forward) and Dwyane Wade (guard) also have cracked 1 million.
The East team remains Wade and Rajon Rondo (Boston) in the backcourt, LeBron and Kevin Garnett (Boston) at forward, and Howard in the pivot. All five have remained the leaders at their respective positions since the first returns were released on Dec. 16.
The West is just as immune to change. Bryant and Chris Paul (New Orleans) head up the guards, Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver) man the forward spots, and Yao Ming (Houston) is still setting the pace at center. Yao is out of the season, so if he's elected the starting center -- his lead over Andrew Bynum (Lakers) has surpassed 260,000 -- NBA commissioner David Stern will choose the West starter.
The tightest races are at East guard and forward and West forward. Chicago's Derrick Rose has narrowed the gap with Rondo to approximately 12,000 votes. Stoudemire sits 24,000 shy of Garnett and Anthony is up on the Lakers' Pau Gasol by about 40,000 votes.
Felton has too much ground to make up, falling more than 785,000 votes short of Rose with only 17 days of voting left. His fate will likely end up in the hands of East coaches, who will balance his improvement with that of the Knicks overall.
"He's got to continue and we've got to continue to get better as a team, but there are a lot of guys who haven't made an All-Star team that are deserving," D'Antoni said. "It's tough, it's tough. You gotta have a little luck and hope it works out for you."
Fans can continue to vote for the starters at 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 wraps up 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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2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING
2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING
LeBron James (Heat) 1,194,091
Kevin Garnett (Celtics) 850,687
Amar'e Stoudemire (Knicks) 826,628
Paul Pierce (Celtics) 465,270
Chris Bosh (Heat) 334,921
Josh Smith (Hawks) 225,951
Carlos Boozer (Bulls) 222,431
Danilo Gallinari (Knicks) 168,519
Danny Granger (Pacers) 158,836
Andre Iguodala (76ers) 150,840
Kevin Durant (Thunder) 945,944
Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets) 742,284
Pau Gasol (Lakers) 702,859
Tim Duncan (Spurs) 551,226
Blake Griffin (Clippers) 540,701
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) 518,682
Lamar Odom (Lakers) 285,667
Luis Scola (Rockets) 258,407
Kevin Love (T-Wolves) 233,273
Caron Butler (Mavericks) 186,626
Dwyane Wade (Heat) 1,167,649
Rajon Rondo (Celtics) 929,781
Derrick Rose (Bulls) 917,753
Ray Allen (Celtics) 494,489
John Wall (Wizards) 212,238
Gilbert Arenas (Magic) 193,056
Brandon Jennings (Bucks) 172,076
Raymond Felton (Knicks) 144,707
Jamal Crawford (Hawks) 123,531
Joe Johnson (Hawks) 119,455
Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 1,391,597
Chris Paul (Hornets) 724,605
Manu Ginobili (Spurs) 504,123
Steve Nash (Suns) 397,975
Deron Williams (Jazz) 384,515
Russell Westbrook (Thunder) 327,453
Tony Parker (Spurs) 298,771
Jason Kidd (Mavericks) 260,569
Vince Carter (Suns) 228,698
Eric Gordon (Clippers) 190,636
Dwight Howard (Magic) 1,205,159
Shaquille O'Neal (Celtics) 506,621
Joakim Noah (Bulls) 197,407
Andrew Bogut (Bucks) 159,560
Al Horford (Hawks) 149,908
Roy Hibbert (Pacers) 133,416
Andrea Bargnani (Raptors) 126,185
Brook Lopez (Nets) 104,784
JaVale McGee (Wizards) 82,650
Ben Wallace (Pistons) 61,051
Andrew Bynum (Lakers) 493,237
Nene (Nuggets) 292,829
Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) 263,000
Brendan Haywood (Mavericks) 245,737
Emeka Okafor (Hornets) 227,621
Chris Kaman (Clippers) 148,389
Marcus Camby (Blazers) 148,322
Andris Biedrins (Warriors) 91,600
Robin Lopez (Suns) 81,148
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