A changing of teams and conferences in the offseason didn’t change things where LeBron James’ All-Star status is concerned.
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The Los Angeles Lakers’ star once again headlines the list of starters for his side of the 68th All-Star Game.
He joins Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the top vote-getter from the Eastern Conference and the heir apparent to his throne as the best player in the East, as captains and the players responsible for choosing sides for the Feb. 17 showcase game at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center.
They were Eastern Conference starters together last season, when James was still in Cleveland, but will now have to choose sides in the All-Star player draft this time around as the respective ballot winners from the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Antetokounmpo is joined on the Eastern Conference starters list by Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker in the backcourt, and Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid in the frontcourt.
In his first season as a Western Conference All-Star starter, James shares the spotlight with Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Houston’s James Harden in the backcourt, and Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City’s Paul George in the frontcourt.
The starters, voted in by fans, players and a media panel, were revealed Thursday. As captains, James and Antetokounmpo will choose from a player pool that includes the other eight starters, regardless of conference designation, and 14 reserves (seven from each conference) chosen by NBA head coaches.
The reserves will be announced next Thursday exclusively on TNT.
James and George join returning Western Conference All-Star starters Curry, Harden and Durant. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Irving are Eastern Conference starters for the second straight season.
Leonard is making his debut as an Eastern Conference starter after twice being an All-Star during his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Hornets’ Walker, who will no doubt share hometown favorite honors with Charlotte native Curry, is making his third straight All-Star Game and first as a starter.
Washington’s Bradley Beal, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry lead the list of potential reserves from the Eastern Conference.
New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, a starter last season, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook headline the list of potential reserves from the Western Conference.
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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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