By Ben Golliver
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant inched past Heat forward LeBron James as overall leading vote-getter, but the second round of NBA All-Star returns didn't offer many other major developments.
Bryant tallied 977,444 votes to James' 970,314 votes; James had led 641,348 to 639,419 when the first round of votes was released on Dec. 13. Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony continue to be the third- and fourth-leading vote-getters, respectively. Heat guard Dwyane Wade passed Lakers center Dwight Howard to become fifth.
Here are the starting lineups for each conference based on the second round of returns. Note that these lineups are the same as the lineups generated by the first round of returns.
• Eastern Conference: Rajon Rondo (Celtics), Wade, James, Anthony and Kevin Garnett (Celtics).
• Western Conference: Chris Paul (Clippers), Bryant, Durant, Blake Griffin (Clippers) and Howard.
Eight of those players were also starters in 2012. The only changes: Rondo, who would plug in for injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose, and Garnett, who would step in for injured Sixers center Andrew Bynum. Bynum started for the Western Conference last year as a member of the Lakers but was traded to the Sixers in a deal that sent Howard to the Lakers.
Based on the consistency between the two sets of returns and the margins separating the various candidates, eight of the 10 projected starters have virtually assured their spots: Rondo, Wade, James, Anthony, Bryant, Durant, Griffin and Howard.
The only two players projected to be starters who face a real chance of being unseated are Garnett and Paul. Garnett leads Heat forward Chris Bosh by fewer than 21,000 votes (328,716 to 308,194), although he more than doubled his lead between the first and second rounds of voting. Paul leads Rockets guard Jeremy Lin by fewer than 47,000 votes (542,564 to 496,133) in the second round; Paul's lead after the first ballot was more than 55,000. Still, neither Garnett nor Paul appears in serious jeopardy.
This year’s fan vote selects the starters for the midseason showcase in Houston on Feb. 17. There is a twist: Fans now select two “backcourt” players and three “frontcourt” players rather than two “guards,” two “forwards” and one “center” as they had in previous years. This year’s voting process has also extended onto social networking sites. For a breakdown of the winners and losers of the new format based on the early voting results, click here.
The full second-round returns are below.
Frontcourt: LeBron James (Mia) 970,314; Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 891,759; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 328,716; Chris Bosh (Mia) 308,194; Tyson Chandler (NYK) 260,000; Paul Pierce (Bos) 171,601; Joakim Noah (Chi) 129,331; Josh Smith (Atl) 111,260; Anderson Varejao (Cle) 99,955; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 90,996; Shane Battier (Mia) 88,800; Andrew Bynum (Phi) 84,939; Luol Deng (Chi) 76,400; Brook Lopez (BKN) 67,991; Jeff Green (Bos) 52,785.
Backcourt: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 645,875; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 574,272; Deron Williams (BKN) 309,778; Kyrie Irving (Cle) 258,193; Ray Allen (Mia) 195,142; Monta Ellis (Mil) 71,287; Raymond Felton (NYK) 66,745; Jrue Holiday (Phi) 56,683; Jason Terry (Bos) 52,833; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 49,122.
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (OKC) 924,898; Dwight Howard (LAL) 616,150; Blake Griffin (LAC) 489,795; Tim Duncan (SA) 299,434; Pau Gasol (LAL) 197,377; Kevin Love (Min) 189,949; Omer Asik (Hou) 131,002; Rudy Gay (Mem) 125,562; Serge Ibaka (OKC) 111,963; Marc Gasol (Mem) 99,271; Zach Randolph (Mem) 97,778; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 97,090; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 93,491; Metta World Peace (LAL) 85,279; Chandler Parsons (Hou) 78,235.
Backcourt: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 977,444; Chris Paul (LAC) 542,564; Jeremy Lin (Hou) 496,133; James Harden
(Hou) 283,691; Russell Westbrook
(OKC) 232,074; Steve Nash
(LAL) 166,262; Tony Parker
(SA) 111,032; Ricky Rubio
(Min) 96,466; Stephen Curry
(GS) 78,380; Manu Ginobili