James, Durant face off in NBA All-Star
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder scores off a slam dunk as Shawne Williams of the Los Angeles Lakers watches during their NBA game at Staples Center on February 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PhotoBasketball’s brightest stars, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, will face in the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans on Feb. 16.
The showcase weekend traditionally pitches East and West All-Star teams, who will be boosted by the league’s top players.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Durant leads the league in scoring with 31.5 points and Miami Heat superstar James is on the third spot with 26.5 points.
Durant will be joined by Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin and Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. Kobe Bryant was also voted as a starter, but the Los Angeles Lakers star will skip the showcase weekend, having missed most of the season due to a string of injuries. Home favorite Anthony Davis of the Pelicans was added to the roster instead of Bryant, but coach Scott Brooks will decide who will start the game.
Selected to start in the East alongside James were Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, Heat’s Dwyane Wade, New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Indiana Pacers’ Paul George. Wade, however, may miss the game due to an injury.
Three first-time All-Stars join Chris Bosh, a ninth time All-Star, as reserves in the East: DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks) and John Wall (Washington Wizards). The Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Johnson earns his seventh selection, while the Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert and the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah are All-Stars for the second time in their careers.
The Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki earns his 12th selection, which ties him for sixth all-time with nine players, as he was named in the West reserves.
Joining Nowitzki as reserves in the West are LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Dwight Howard (Rockets), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs) and Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers). It’s the eighth selection for Howard, in his first season with the Rockets, while teammate Harden earns his second straight trip to the All-Star Game. Paul garners his seventh All-Star nod, while Parker is an All-Star for the sixth time in his career. Aldridge captures his third All-Star berth, while teammate Lillard is the lone first-time All-Star among West reserves.
The All-Star weekend’s traditional Saturday Night will be highlighted by the Slam Dunk Contest and Three Point Challenge.
Paul George, Terrence Ross, John Wall, Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard and Ben McLemore will participate in the Slam Dunk Contest.
The Three Point Challenge includes Arron Afflalo, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Joe Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kevin Love.