Denton: Howard to Start in 2011 NBA All-Star Game

By John Denton
January 27, 2011

CHICAGO – There is seemingly no end to Dwight Howard’s soaring popularity.

The Orlando Magic superstar center was announced as the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference by the NBA on Thursday night, meaning he will start at center in the NBA All-Star Game for a fourth consecutive year. The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be played at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Feb. 20.

``I’m always thankful for all of the people out there who voted for me. It’s a blessing to have that kind of support,’’ Howard said of being the East’s leading vote-getter. ``My first year I didn’t have a lot of votes, but every year since then it’s just kept on increasing more and more. I’m just so thankful for the fans because I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.’’

Where Howard is is the best center in the game today. He is averaging a career-best 22 points per game, while ranking second in the NBA in rebounding (13.4), third in double-doubles (34), fifth in blocked shots (2.23) and sixth in field goal percentage (56.9 percent). He has 27 20-point games and six 30-point games this season and scored a season-best 39 points twice.

Howard will be joined by Miami’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and New York’s Amare Stoudemire in the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference. Kobe Bryant, the overall leading vote-getter, will start for the West along with Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Yao Ming was voted in as the starting center, but won’t play because of a foot injury. Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are the likely candidates to replace Yao.

Howard will be making his fifth appearance in the All-Star Game, the fourth as a starter. Howard, 25, has averaged 16.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four previous games. His finest all-star performance came last year in Dallas when he had 17 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.

``It’s an honor just to be there at the game and a part of the whole weekend,’’ Howard said. ``The way I look at it, the all-star game is completely for the fans. It’s a way of giving back for me. I just look at it as a blessing.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at