Westbrook snubbed for Curry, Harden as All-Star starter
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, averaging a triple double, was snubbed for a Western Conference starting spot in next month’s NBA All-Star Game in voting announced Thursday by the league.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to last season’s NBA title, were named to the Eastern Conference starting five while Golden State teammates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were voted onto the Western Conference opening lineup.
The 66th NBA All-Star Game will be played February 19 at New Orleans. A revamped selection format took 50 percent from fan voting, which concluded Monday, and 25 percent each from player and media ballots.
Out of more than 38 million fan votes — a 146 percent increase over last year — James was the overall winner with 1.89 million votes, while Curry had 1.84 million, Durant 1.77 million and Irving 1.69 million.
Thunder guard Westbrook leads the NBA with 30.6 points a game, ranks second with 10.4 assists a game and pulls down 10.6 rebounds a contest as he tries to become only the second player to average a triple double for an entire campaign after Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season.
But the West starting backcourt will be 3-point Warriors sharpshooter Curry and Houston’s James Harden, who ranks second in NBA scoring with 28.9 points a game and leads the NBA with 11.6 assists a contest.
Westbrook was level with Curry and Harden in the weighted point totals but lost out based on fan ballot totals that served as the tie-breaker. Curry and Harden with 1.77 million were more popular with fans than Westbrook with 1.57 million.
“Dude averaging a triple double and not starting in the all star game is wild,” tweeted Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons.
Others were just as surprised. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it “fake news” and said he can’t understand why the fans didn’t vote the way the players and the media did.
Joining Westbrook’s former Thunder teammate Durant in the starting West frontcourt will be San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans center Anthony Davis, who will be playing on his team’s home court.
“It’s going to feel amazing to be an ambassador for the city,” Davis said. “I’m definitely going out to try and get MVP (Most Valuable Player) being here in New Orleans.”
Golden State big man Zaza Pachulia of Georgia would have started in place of Davis had the fan vote been used as in past years.
In the Eastern Conference, forward James and guard Irving will be joined by Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Milwaukee center Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece — the first Bucks All-Star starter since 1986.
DeRozan and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas were tied for the second East backcourt spot but the fan vote tie-breaker favored DeRozan by 796,112 to 755,102.
Had the public vote been used as in previous years, Chicago guard Dwyane Wade and Philadelphia frontliner Joel Embiid of Cameroon would have been East starters.
LeBron in rare company
James is the all-time top All-Star scorer with 291 points. He will make his 13th consecutive All-Star start in 14 NBA seasons. Only Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have started more.
Butler and DeRozan reached their third All-Star Games while Irving, the 2014 All-Star Game MVP, is in his fourth game in six seasons.
Antetokounmpo, 22, makes his All-Star debut as the first Milwaukee player in the game since Michael Redd in 2004.
Durant, an eight-time All-Star selection, has the best All-Star Game scoring average at 25.6 points.
Harden makes his fifth All-Star appearance while Curry, the two-time reigning NBA MVP, and Davis are in the All-Star Game for the fourth time and Leonard, the two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, starts for the second year in a row.
All-Star reserve players, selected by NBA coaches and almost certain to include Westbrook, will be announced on January 26.
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