The latest round of balloting for the NBA All-Star Game was released on Thursday, and Kobe Bryant is closing in on an honor he hasn't received in eight seasons. Kobe leads all NBA players in votes received, in line to be elected to start the All-Star Game for the 13th straight season. The game will be held on Kobe's home court, at Staples Center, on Sunday, February 20.
Bryant has amassed 1,757,216 votes, holding a lead of over 200,000 votes over Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. Kobe has led the league in All-Star votes once in his career, in 2003. However, Bryant has led the Western Conference in votes for each of the last three seasons. Last season, Bryant trailed only LeBron James in voting. In 2008-2009, Bryant trailed both Howard and James. In 2007-2008, Kobe was behind Kevin Garnett, James, and Howard. Kobe was elected to start last season, but sat out with a sprained left ankle.
Joining Bryant on the home court will likely be Pau Gasol, who remains third among Western Conference forwards in the voting. Gasol has collected 851,456 votes, which trails only Kevin Durant (1,270,729 votes) and Carmelo Anthony (1,518,807). Gasol is a three-time NBA All-Star, including each of the last two seasons with the Lakers.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum ranks second among Western Conference centers with 660,576 votes. He only trails Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, who is out for the season. However, Bynum has only played 16 of a possible 40 games this season, and really has no business on the All-Star team. The best solution, should Gasol remain third among forwards, is to have Gasol start at center for the West, especially since Gasol started 31 games at the pivot for the Lakers this season.
The official All-Star starting lineup will be announced on TNT on Thursday, January 27 live at 4 p.m. PST.
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