Butler continues to climb in All-Star voting

Here comes Jimmy Butler.

Well, not Thursday, exactly, as Butler will miss the TNT game with the Knicks. Nikola Mirotic, also with the flu, will not play and also is back in Chicago. Dwyane Wade returns from a rest game and told reporters earlier in the day he feels like he’s 25 now. Well, not exactly, but he was smiling.

And Butler probably is smiling a bit about moving up in the All-Star voting results.

The second round of fan voting—there also will be player and media ballots counted this time—that was released Thursday had Butler moving up from sixth to fifth among Eastern Conference forwards. Butler moved ahead of Carmelo Anthony and remains behind leader LeBron James, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Cavs’ Kevin Love and the 76ers’  Joel Embiid.

The top three among forwards start along with the top two among guards.

The coaches select the seven reserves and Butler is sure to be among that group if he doesn’t move up to third in the voting. Which is possible this season with media and player voting.

James leads all players with just above one million votes. Butler now is about 75,000 votes behind Love for third in the East. Butler is about 60,000 fan votes behind Embiid.

Kyrie Irving leads the East guards followed by Wade.  Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan is third behind Wade. Wade has been among the most popular NBA players among fans and a 12-time All-Star. But with media and player voting and a supporting role to Butler on the Bulls it’s uncertain if Wade would remain in the starting position.

He said Thursday morning after Bulls practice he’s been thrilled with his embrace by the fans over his career.

“I think the league does a great job of always trying to listen to the players in the league and trying to better things,” Wade said about players getting a vote this year. “We did things a certain way for so long and it's like okay, let's switch it up. They've always done a great job of it. We'll see how it goes and hopefully it goes well and guys get their opportunity to live their dream of being an All-Star.

“I'm not worried about myself,” said Wade. “Whatever happens, happens. I've been blessed. All the years I've been voted by the fans, besides last year, you couldn't argue it. The other two years I've been voted in by the coaches, which I took a lot of pride in. You get to this point of your career, you accept it, you take it. If you're at All-Star weekend, you make the best of it. If not, you make the best of it. We'll see when the votes come out where I'm at. If I'm going to New Orleans, I'll have a hell of a time. If I'm not going to New Orleans, I'm still going to New Orleans.”

The Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia still is second among West forwards with Kevin Durant first and Kawhi Leonard third. Stephen Curry and James Harden lead among Western Conference guards.