NEW YORK : Los Angeles Lakers playmaker Kobe Bryant and Orlando Magic big man Dwight Howard set the pace in voting for the 60th NBA All-Star Game while China’s injury-idled Yao Ming also remains a fan favorite.
In the second update of public balloting, last year’s NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Bryant led the way with 1,153,694 votes while Howard was second overall with 988,572, the league announced Thursday.
But the shock of the voting update had to be Yao leading the way for Western Conference centers with 637,527 votes despite the fact that the Houston Rockets big man has not played since November 10 due to a left ankle injury.
Yao, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the NBA season because of his injury, is ninth overall in voting but first among non-US players and well ahead of second-best Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum with 376,283 votes.
Voting will continue through January 23 with starting lineups for the Eastern and Western conferences selected by the ballots to be revealed on January 27 for the NBA All-Star Game on February 20 at Los Angeles.
Coaches will vote to decide the remaining All-Stars, to be announced February 3.
Bryant, a three-time Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game, is joined in the West backcourt by Chris Paul at 585,690 votes with NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Denver’s Carmelo Anthony pacing the forwards.
In the East, Orlando’s Howard has more than double the votes of second-place Boston big man Shaquille O’Neal, while the forward and guard pairs are both Miami and Boston mixes.
Miami star LeBron James, a two-time All-Star Most valuable Player, and Boston’s Kevin Garnett set the pace among East forwards with Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Boston’s Rajon Rondo leading the way among East guards.
International players are in tight races for two starting spots in the West.
Spain’s Pau Gasol of the Lakers has 597,201 votes to stand third among West forwards, 5,315 votes behind Anthony for the second starting spot.
Argentina’s Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs in third among West guards with 403,632, trailing Paul.
In the East, New York’s Amare Stoudemire is third among forwards with 637,486 votes, 75,069 votes behind Garnett, and Chicago’s Derrick Rose is third among forwards, 56,188 behind Rondo.
Channel News Asia