MINNEAPOLIS—LeBron James prides himself on preparing for just about anything.
But he never saw this possibility—or the related question—coming.
Has it occurred to him that he's likely to jump center for the East on Feb. 16 in New Orleans, date and site of the 2014 All-Star Game?
"Hell no, it hasn't," James told Bleacher Report, with a hearty laugh. "Oh shoot, are you serious?"
Last season, due in part to the dearth of quality traditional centers in an evolving game, the NBA changed its voting format, eliminating the center category and splitting the options to "frontcourt" and "backcourt."
James and Carmelo Anthony dominated the East's frontcourt voting, each nearly tripling the third-place finisher, Kevin Garnett, with Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler placing fourth and fifth respectively. Erik Spoelstra, coaching the East, elevated Bosh to the starting center spot after Garnett was ruled out of the game due to injury.
Garnett is having a forgettable first season for Brooklyn, and it's unlikely he'll garner anywhere near his usual support. Roy Hibbert has arguably been the East's most effective two-way center, but he's hardly the most popular player on his team. That's emerging superstar (and reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month) Paul George, who is now listed in the frontcourt after being listed in the backcourt on the last ballot.
The first set of results won't be released until Thursday, and voting won't conclude until Jan. 20, with the starters named Jan. 23. But James, Anthony and George are heavy favorites to gain the top three frontcourt spots. All three are technically small forwards, though Anthony and James both play in the post quite a bit. And of the three, James is the one who has actually guarded centers at times.
Therefore, he would be the center by default.
"That is hilarious," James said. "That is crazy! I would start at center in the All-Star Game? Against Dwight Howard?"
Most likely. Howard was second in West frontcourt voting last season, behind Kevin Durant and in front of Blake Griffin, and that doesn't figure to change, especially since LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love don't play in big markets. Plus, Howard is having a better season with the Rockets than he did with the Lakers last season.
"Yeah, Dwight would probably lead in votes over there," James said.
Which might make for a memorable tip-off, if only because it's different from anything James has done on that stage. There's not much, after all, that he hasn't experienced.
"Right," James said. "No, there hasn't been."
Then he paused, laughed.
"Don't list me as no center in the All-Star game," he said. "Just list me as a player."
Still, James does like the new voting format, calling the frontcourt/backcourt split "pretty cool."
So he'll be a point center.
"I guess so," James said, smiling again, thinking all the way back in NBA history to 1980, before he was even born. "Some Magic Johnson Finals thing."
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